Hero­ism amid the gun­shots

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - ••• Kathryn Jean Lopez is se­nior fel­low at the Na­tional Re­view In­sti­tute, ed­i­tor-at-large of Na­tional Re­view On­line and found­ing di­rec­tor of Catholic Voices USA. She can be con­tacted at [email protected]­tion­al­re­view.com. KATHRYN LOPEZ

Iwasn’t quite sure what the chaos was about as I sat at an ope­nair diner on the West Side of Man­hat­tan the other night, try­ing to stay away from news and get a lit­tle work done. Times Square was sent into a panic when peo­ple thought a mo­tor­cy­cle back­fir­ing was a gun­shot. Broad­way shows emp­tied pre­ma­turely and sirens were ev­ery­where, but it proved to be a false alarm and ev­ery­one went on with their nights. But the con­fu­sion cap­tured the anx­i­ety of the times. Peo­ple are over­whelmed. Which is why Ken­drick Castillo should be a house­hold name.

He was the 18-year-old who in May rushed to stop a fel­low stu­dent who walked into his Bri­tish lit­er­a­ture class with a gun.

Ken­drick Castillo wanted to be a Knight of Colum­bus. The Catholic fraternal or­ga­ni­za­tion de­scribes it­self as “Catholic men striv­ing to bet­ter our­selves and our world by build­ing a bridge back to faith, as­sist­ing the sick and dis­abled, and pro­tect­ing those who can’t pro­tect them­selves -- whether they are next door or around the world.” At the Knights’ an­nual con­ven­tion on Aug. 6, along­side an­nounce­ments about ma­jor ini­tia­tives to help refugees and Na­tive Amer­i­cans, 2,000 men de­clared their de­sire to be more like Ken­drick Castillo, while also posthu­mously in­au­gu­rat­ing him into the or­der.

Castillo’s ac­tion gave class­mates the op­por­tu­nity to run or oth­er­wise seek shel­ter. Though Castillo was shot and killed, his hero­ism al­lowed ev­ery­one else in that room to sur­vive. Carl An­der­son, head of the Knights, de­scribed Castillo as one of “the best men of our day.”

From all ac­counts, this was typ­i­cal of the way he lived his life. As An­der­son put it, Ken­drick “wanted to be a Knight of Colum­bus be­cause he wanted to help not only peo­ple, but his com­mu­nity.”

And in his last mo­ments, Castillo did both.

“In a bet­ter world, Ken­drick Castillo would still be with us,” An­der­son writes in the Knights’ mag­a­zine, Columbia: “That Tues­day would have gone like any other, no shoot­ing, no grief, no re­sult­ing search for an­swers. Sadly, that is not the world we live in. Ours is marred with sin and strife and suf­fer­ing. But that doesn’t mean we have no hope. Heroes give us hope.”

Castillo is also a mar­tyr to our cul­ture of death and a pa­tron saint for these times. He’s an icon of char­ity and courage in the midst of suf­fer­ing and fear.

At the Knights’ con­ven­tion in Min­neapo­lis, Castillo’s fa­ther voiced his hope that young peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar will con­tinue to hear about his son and that the way he lived his short life will in­spire them to live vir­tu­ously, even hero­ically, and be drawn to faith in God. “He was the an­gel and the saint in my life who taught me how to live,” John Castillo said.

John Castillo and those 2,000 men who posthu­mously made Ken­drick a Knight of Colum­bus know that the ex­am­ple of lives like Ken­drick Castillo’s can in­spire oth­ers. In the midst of all the vi­o­lence and death in our cul­ture, de­spite the hate-mon­gers and pro­pa­gan­dists prey­ing on fear and de­spair, it’s pos­si­ble to be a hero. And it has the po­ten­tial to be con­ta­gious.

“Hero­ism lives in or­di­nary peo­ple who do ex­tra­or­di­nary things,” An­der­son writes. “They prac­tice the time­less prin­ci­ples of courage, truth­ful­ness, hu­mil­ity and self-sac­ri­fice. Like Ken­drick Castillo, they put the in­ter­ests of oth­ers ahead of them­selves, even if it costs them ev­ery­thing.” Heroes don’t have to be fa­mous; An­der­son writes that they can be “of­ten un­known or un­ac­knowl­edged be­cause they don’t seek pub­lic­ity. They also come from un­ex­pected places and their hero­ism emerges at un­fore­seen times.”

In the wake of the shoot­ings, while at a pre­miere of a new project of hers, Oprah Win­frey sug­gested we need to explore a “new re­li­gion” of sto­ry­telling. The Knights have the right idea though: Cel­e­brate saintly liv­ing. That will help us get real re­li­gion again.

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