by Michael Paul Cartledge on May 1, 2020


This piece originally appeared at Church Life Journal, a journal of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.


tanding on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on May 7, 2019, I hugged the mother of a former student I had taught at Yale, John Aroutiounian, who died tragically of cancer at the age of 26. When I delivered John’s eulogy earlier that day, I clutched a rosary from Medjugorje in my hand as I told John’s friends and family that I fervently believed that if God would allow the tragic death of one of the most brilliant students I have ever taught, he would work miracles in other ways.

Less than 11 months later, on March 31, 2020, John’s mother Rouzan told me that her husband Aris had died of COVID in New York. I clutched my phone in disbelief and wept, alone at home. Aris’s death was not the miracle I had so firmly expected. As John neared his young death, I told him I do not have a perfect answer to why God might let him suffer and die so young. Nor can I explain why God would allow a second tragic loss to the same family in under a year. 

During his battle against cancer, I promised John that if he miraculously lived, I would go with him and his parents on a Marian pilgrimage. When he died on May 3, 2019, I felt called to keep my promise anyway. I spent my birthday on August 25, 2019, at the Marian pilgrimage site of Fatima, Portugal, keeping that promise.

Continue reading at Church Life Journal.