Holy men and women don’t clamor for attention, and it goes without saying that our wayward culture doesn’t seek out meek and humble souls, much less hold them up as examples to imitate. Unlike the attention-starved, who push their way to the front of the line, saints often slip under the radar just quietly going about their lives. Those closest to them, however, see something quite special. Many of the greatest saints in the Church’s history lived in relative obscurity on earth. That said, the simplicity, humility and serenity of such people sometimes attract the right kind of attention, the unsolicited kind. Somewhat paradoxically, genuinely humble and meek people can tend to rise to the surface because they are so much the exception today. Look no further than Saint Therese of Lisieux, who gave us her “Little Way” of simplicity, humility and childlike trust in God. She was only twenty-four when she died, and yet went on to become one of the most popular Saints of modern times.
Quite often though, external factors also call attention to holy men and women. Sometimes, those factors can be unbelievably shocking and sad. Such is the case in the life and death of Nathan Trapuzzano, who was shot and killed on April 1 in an act of unfathomable evil. While out on an early morning walk in Indianapolis, the twenty-four year-old devout Catholic was approached by a teenager (who already boasted a lengthy criminal record) and was mortally wounded in an attempted robbery. Thankfully, the suspect is now in the hands of the authorities. Since first reading about this story online a few weeks ago, it struck me, and it has stuck with me. The reasons, as you’ll soon discover, are clear. The attention here however will not focus on Trapuzzano’s death, or on a criminal, but rather on how Trapuzzano lived his short life.
So who was Nathan Trapuzzano? We already know a good deal about him from moving interviews that his grieving widow, Jennifer Trapuzzano, offered to media outlets in the wake of his funeral. He was extremely well-liked by his peers, very disciplined in his prayer life, intelligent and, a Classics major, well-versed in Latin and Greek. He attended the Traditional Latin Mass and regularly encouraged friends to join him. He was passionately pro-life, and prayed and counseled outside abortion clinics. He also enjoyed philosophy and wine. Relatively new to the neighborhood, Nathan and Jennifer were starting to cobble together a solid group of Catholic friends. Most significantly, we are told that Nathan was a man of unshakable faith and integrity.
The Holy Mass, the Sacraments and daily prayer were anchors in Nathan’s life. In the homily at Nathan’s funeral Mass, Father Christopher Roberts reached back in his own memory to relate Nathan’s deep devotion to the Sacrament of Penance, and we know from Jennifer Trapuzzano that he went to Confession the day before he died. She admitted in an interview with the Mail Online that, “The church was the most important thing in his life. I was his wife and he loved me so much, but his faith came first. When he asked me to marry him he said, ‘I want us both to be saints and for us to go to heaven together, side by side’. In his mind our marriage had three people, him, me and God.”
Not a lot of young men think that way, talk that way, live that way, nowadays. The anecdote proves how devoted Nathan was to his wife and daughter, Cecilia (who was just born on April 25). In fact, he switched his daily walking routine, a cherished time for quiet prayer and meditation, from evenings to mornings just to be able to spend those evening hours with his new family. It was only on the second day of this new morning schedule that he was killed.
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future the Church will investigate Nathan Trapuzzano’s life for evidence of heroic virtue. Time (and the Church) will tell, but who could disagree that his example, that of a pious, humble gentleman striving daily for sanctity, is exactly what this world needs, and what young men today in particular need? On the subject of holy men and women, Pope Francis once said:
The saints are not supermen, nor were they born perfect. They are like us, like each one of us. They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived normal lives with joys and sorrows, struggles and hopes. What changed their lives? When they recognized God’s love, they followed it with all their heart without reserve or hypocrisy. They spent their lives serving others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace. This is the life of a Saint.
Nathan’s short life and sudden, violent death reflect in a profound way the troubled world in which we live where, all-too-often, darkness seems to overtake light, where loud and destructive evil seems to shutout serene and humble goodness. But that would, of course, be viewing things through the cropped, suffocating lenses of nihilism and despair. Seen through the lens of the Cross, things are much different, even radically different. Thank God, our faith gives us the guarantee that, difficult as it may be to understand in times like this, light will always conquer darkness because Christ already triumphed over death; and all who follow Him share in that definitive victory. “He that believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) The saints, with all their “sorrows, struggles and hopes” get that truth in a profound way and live accordingly.
We are told by Jennifer Trapuzzano that, in the weeks since Nathan’s death, she has received scores of cards and letters from sympathizers informing her that, because of his example of piety, they are returning to Church and to Confession for the first time in years. That is a snapshot for you of the life-giving power of the Resurrection, of Easter morning. Joy overcomes sadness. Life eclipses death. Jennifer Trapuzzano herself has been a shining example of supernatural graces, earnestly requesting prayers for the conversion of the murderer. Love conquers hate, every time.
Nearly one month after Nathan’s death, the grief and loss that his widow and family are still experiencing must be overwhelming. I cannot fathom what it must be like to lose someone in such a violent way. But it is manifestly clear that faith in God’s love and mercy is sustaining this tight-knit family through the storm.
On a final note, we’re also told that Nathan strongly believed he was destined to make a difference, to leave his mark in the world. He was right. We know that he already did.
To contribute to a fund for Nathan and Jennifer’s daughter Cecilia click here.
To read more about this story, follow the link here.