It is hard to believe it has been two years.
In my first years as a priest, on Tuesday evenings during the academic year I drove from the parish where I was assigned in Carmel to spend some time with the Catholic students at the Newman Center at Ball State. My visits involved an hour conference on some aspect of the faith and exposition the Blessed Sacrament in the church. During Eucharistic Adoration I heard confessions while the students were praying. Most of the time I stayed afterwards to give students who desired it spiritual direction. At the request of my bishop, once a month I celebrated a Latin Mass at Saint Mary in Muncie before going to the Newman Center at Saint Francis.
One of the Ball State students who faithfully attended these Tuesday evenings was Nathan Trapuzzano. Nathan was a classics student who enjoyed teaching me a thing or two about Latin.
There were two things beyond his command of Latin letters that impressed me about Nathan from the start. The first was his goodness. He was a true gentleman, considerate of others and always wanting to become a better man. The second thing that impressed me about Nathan was his deep Catholic faith. He wanted to understand and live his faith at the greatest depth possible. His questions during the conferences betrayed both intelligence and humility. Nathan’s starting point as a Catholic was full acceptance of what the Church taught. From there he sought to apply his considerable intellectual gifts to not only understand it for himself but also to be able to explain it others. Fides quaerens intellectum. His childlike trust in the Catholic faith sought adult understanding in order to be able to give a reason for his hope to others.
I saw in Nathan all of the qualities that one would look for in a good husband and father, which also happen to be the qualities that make a good priest. When I told Nathan this, he took it to prayer. Eventually, God made it clear to him that his vocation was to be a husband and a father. While part of me was disappointed, I realized that one day he would make the woman he would marry very happy.
Eventually I moved on to another assignment and lost touch with Nathan. I was so happy about a year and a half ago to receive an email from him telling me that was engaged and asking me to celebrate his wedding Mass at Sacred Heart in Indianapolis.
Nathan’s deep faith shone in the planning of the ceremony. He wanted a full compliment of altar servers in the procession and the maximum amount of ceremonial possible. Both he and his fiancé wanted the focus of their Nuptial Mass to be first on Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist and then on the Sacrament of Matrimony that they would receive. Everything else that is usually the focus in a wedding was of lesser importance in their minds. On the night before wedding after the rehearsal, Nathan insisted that everyone in the wedding party have an opportunity to go to confession. This was the first and only time I have been asked to hear confessions after a wedding rehearsal in my almost seven years as a priest.
Nathan was a man who knew God to be a forgiving and loving Father. He wanted to share that experience with others.
The wedding itself was profoundly beautiful. My prayer for Nathan and his wife was simple, “May God grant you many, many happy years.”
While Nathan was a serious young man, he knew how to have fun. One of the gifts that he and his wife gave me for celebrating the wedding was a thick Latin textbook, which, as I am writing this, sits on the coffee table in my study.
Yesterday morning Nathan Trapuzzano was shot in the abdomen in an apparent robbery. He died shortly thereafter. His pregnant wife survives him.
We remember his wife and their unborn child in our prayers. We ask God to grant wisdom to the police as they try to take the two dangerous men who killed Nathan off the streets. We pray also for his murderers, who took the life of one of the best young men I have ever known. May God forgive them.