In my bitterness I cried out to the Lord, "You could have saved her, but You didn't! I trusted in You, and You abandoned us! But who can we turn to if not You? There is no one else."

In my mind I saw the Lord's face in agony on the cross. I could see blood and tears dripping from His pain-wracked face, and I could see His heart was breaking in His horrible agony.

Oh, yes, Lord! You were there with Katie. Yes, Lord. I do know You love her more than we can comprehend. I began to surrender my despair to Jesus, trying to touch Him, to feel Him, knowing only He could make it all right. Only He could help us understand the mystery of this "valley of tears."

Another priest friend, Father Phil Elmer, talked to us about suffering.

"We can't always understand why these things happen," he said. "The mystery of evil has confounded theologians from the beginning of time. Sometimes all we can do is surrender it to the Lord, who alone can produce some good from this tragedy. I believe that somehow God is going to do something wonderful with Katie's suffering and death and also with your suffering.

"There is something more I'm going to ask of you. Maybe you can't do it today, but I want you to try. I want you to not only offer your sufferings to the Lord, but to also offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving to Jesus for the opportunity to suffer with Him. Unite your suffering with Him on the cross for the salvation of souls."

This was too much for me! Doesn't he realize we want the Lord to take this misery away? How can we "thank Him" for this? Something more precious than my own life has been torn from me and left all of us with an emptiness that cannot be repaired! And I'm afraid that even the Lord can't fix it.

As family and friends mourned with us, the story of Katie's death seemed to consume our city of a hundred thousand people. Reporters called wanting to talk to us.

"Mr. Clarey, the city needs to hear from your family," one reporter said. "We want to share our sympathy and to know more about little Katie." I consented to an interview, but with no cameras.

Two days after Katie's death, the reporter came to interview our family.

He asked us about our faith and how important it was to us at that moment. He told us he had interviewed Father Phil and many others, and the one thing that stood out was the unusually mature faith Katie had for her age.

"I understand you would go to the abortion clinic to pray?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Katie could not understand how a mother could destroy her own baby, especially after the difficulty we had in bringing Josie into the world."

He asked all the children questions about Katie, then turned to Kathie and asked, "Do you have anything you would like to say to the man who killed Katie?"

We were taken aback by the question. Not once had we said anything about her murderer. Our attention was focused on Katie and her life and our faith.

Kathie slowly but deliberately said, "Yes, we do. We would like to tell him we forgive him."

The reporter stared in silence, then murmured something about how this could be possible. Kathie said, "It's what God asks of us. It might not be our way, but it is His way. We ask in the Our Father every day `Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' We don't necessarily understand it, but we must trust in what Jesus tells us to do."

Later Kathie and I discussed what she had said about forgiveness. It was true. Not one of us said we hated the man who had killed Katie. We didn't even think about him. We chose to remember the joy of Katie's short life, not how she died. It seemed as if at least part of the burden and pain was already being lifted. We were experiencing the grace of God.

When we say we forgive the man who killed Katie, it's not a denial of what happened. It's not a denial of justice. Forgiveness is like love. It is an act of the will. Ultimately you surrender to Our Lord, and He applies the grace.

The phone began to ring the next day. "I just wanted to thank you for sharing your faith with us," the first caller said. "You gave me the courage to forgive my daughter-in-law."

Apparently our interview had been on TV. We had no idea that we had said anything profound. But the phone rang all day, with people thanking us, explaining their own difficulty forgiving a loved one, saying they now had the courage to do so, as well as assuring us of their prayers. We received hundreds of cards and phone calls with these sentiments.

More than a decade has passed since Katie's murder. The grief is still there. But God has been faithful in His presence and in His healing. We're confident that Katie is in heaven. And that gives us hope. Our goal is to be united with Jesus forever in heaven. We now have a deeper sense of reality, a deeper sense of truth, a deeper sense of purpose than before.

But we still have to struggle to hang on to that, and we have to practice it. If it wasn't for the Church, if it wasn't for our faith, if it wasn't for the sacraments, I don't know if we could have survived this.

We know suffering will come again in this "valley of tears." But God waits. He waits ever so patiently for us, saying: "Come to me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).

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