Grace in Odd Places

At the closing of Georges Bernanos’ touching story, The Diary of a Country Priest, the young protagonist absolves a man uncertain of his actions with the lovely words, “Does it matter? Grace is everywhere.” I recently read the story of a woman whose response to a devastating revelation in her life offers a glimpse of such grace in our everyday world.

Some of you will be familiar with the story of her husband, Michael Fenter. He is a Puget Sound resident who was arrested on October 8, outside of a bank in Tacoma that he had just robbed. It turns out that he was also charged with several other bank robberies up and down the West Coast. The most bizarre element in all of this is the fact that NOTHING in his past would have suggested such actions; and, all the while he was allegedly carrying out these crimes, the rest of his life was that of a loving family man working on a peaceful farm.

This is where Kateen Fenter’s response comes in. I want to give full credit to Maureen O’Hagan from the Seattle Times for her outstanding article covering this story in the newspaper on July 24. O’Hagan does a masterful job at setting us up for the shock it was for Michael Fenter’s wife, Kateen, to hear of her husband’s arrest, and the allegations against him. No one involved in investigating the crimes has any doubt but that Kateen was completely in the dark about her husband’s alleged acts. Truly, as far as she knew, she and her husband were living out their dream of running a farm near Discovery Bay, “…where people could come and be fed and find a place of healing” – her own words.

Think about this for a moment, as O’Hagan points out, Kateen had known Michael for 25 years, most of which she had been married to him. His arrest left her responsible for their three teenage kids and the family farm. How would I respond to my spouse upon learning of such a secret and criminal life? Kateen’s response, as reported by O’Hagan, “I’m angry at moments. But you can’t live there…I get up every morning and breathe. I get up every morning and love the people around me and go to work.” Even more powerfully, when asked about whether she feels her husband is guilty, Kateen responds, “I don’t need answers because I’ve made my decision based on who I am, not on what he did. We can choose to love Michael or reject him, but he won’t be a better person if we reject him.”

I have no idea of Kateen Fenter’s faith or beliefs, but when I heard her response, I thought of Christ. I can’t think of a finer demonstration in recent days of the truth that grace is everywhere, maybe especially in the oddest of places.

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