Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver expressed anguish over the recent Arizona shooting that left 6 dead and over a dozen wounded, noting particularly the life and deep Catholic faith of victim Judge John Roll.
U.S. Federal Judge John Roll was killed on Jan. 8 along with 5 others, including 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green.
The incident began on Saturday when 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a local supermarket where recently elected Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was giving a community address. Loughner, a socially isolated, anti-government youth with a history of mental instability, was reportedly intent on killing the congresswoman with whom he took personal issue. Rep. Giffords is alive but in critical condition after being shot in the head at point-blank range.
In his Jan. 12 column for the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Chaput remembers Judge Roll as a political figure who lived a life of “powerful, authentic Catholic witness.”
The archbishop recalls a trip to Phoenix in 2008 where he gave the homily for an annual Red Mass for the state's lawyers and politicians. Sitting in the congregation that day, was Judge Roll's wife, Maureen, “an active and very committed Catholic.”
Archbishop Chaput says that Maureen must have mentioned his homily to Judge Roll, since 10 months later “I got the first of several extraordinary letters from her husband.”
“It’s impossible to fully know a man from correspondence alone,” he writes. “But each of John Roll’s letters had the same four clear marks: generosity; intelligence, largeness of spirit and a sincere love for his Catholic faith.”
The archbishop says that two days after Judge Roll’s murder, he spoke to his law clerk, attorney Aaron Martin, who described the late political leader.
Judge Roll was devoted to St. Thomas More and kept a biography of the saint on a table near his desk. He was also known as a father figure among his subordinates and expressed a sincere interest in the lives and families of those he worked with.
“He liked mentoring young Christian attorneys because he believed their faith gave them a better moral foundation for the vocation of law,” Archbishop Chaput says.
Judge Roll read a range of Catholic publications every Sunday morning before Mass to learn more about his faith. He also swam almost every morning at the local YMCA and made it to daily Mass as often as he could. He would have turned 64 on February 8, and is survived by three sons and five grandchildren.
Maureen and John Roll had known each other, according to Aaron Martin, since they were 14 or 15.
“They were, throughout their life together, each other’s best friends,” Archbishop Chaput says. “They would have celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary later this month.”
“John Roll was, finally, a man of unusual personal graciousness,” he remarks. “Despite their political differences, Judge Roll and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, had a cordial relationship of mutual respect.”
Precisely because of their differences, the archbishop says, Judge Roll tried to greet Giffords at her local appearances whenever he could.
“On the morning of his death, Judge Roll went to Mass, and at 9:55 a.m., according to Martin, left his house to just 'drop in' on Giffords’ public gathering as a courtesy, to say hello.”
“He never came home.”
“This life passes,” Archbishop Chaput says in his concluding remarks. “Eternity is forever. We need to act in this world accordingly, with lives of Christian service.”
“Maureen and John Roll shared a life of quiet, powerful, authentic Catholic witness. Please keep them both, and the entire Roll family, in your prayers.”