The Lottery Has Come to Small Town America

'It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,' Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her. 

~ The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

Advent is being in a dark cell. Then the door opens from the outside, and light comes in. 

Father Robert McTeigue 

All the goings-on in my life have given me fodder to reflect on the state of things this Advent. 

My sister came into town two weeks ago, and as women do, particularly at this time of year, we shopped. She tried on pajamas at a spendy boutique. I tried on sweaters, and flummoxed over whether or not to make a purchase. 

We attended a local fair, where artists displayed artwork and handcrafts at booths set up inside community halls, a masonic lodge, and one giant yurt. Artisans sold slippers made from recycled clothing, wall hangings of fruit and flowers created from washi tape, nuno felted capes and dresses, and birdbath tile mosaics. 

In a photographer's booth, surrounded by enormous images of red and orange poppies that felt very Georgia O'Keeffe-esque, I ran into an old friend. We've known each other for years but I haven't seen her in a while. Maybe even a decade. 

She had on a zip-up fleece with a logo of the new Seattle Kraken, which I mistook for the Seahawks. Oh, no, she laughed. She'd given up on the Seahawks for the season. Mostly, anyway. She still had her fingers crossed for their game against the 49ers that weekend. It was the big rivalry with her California-based family. 

I asked her how she'd been, and things got a little more dour. 

“It's been a rough couple of months,” she told me. “My dad died, and my dog died. He was ten years old. My other dog is on his last legs.” 

Gee--that's rough!” I scrambled as to where to take the conversation from there, and stammered for a bit before settling on a course. 

“When did your dad die?”

Oh, this was a few months ago. It was one of those cases of someone who didn't react well to the vaccine. He was in the hospital right away. He was near family when he passed.....” her voice trailed off. 

I told her how sorry I was, she said I needed to come see her since I was in town. And she moved on to another booth, as I continued looking at images of fields of poppies, reproduced onto mousepads, mugs, greeting cards and posters. 

But her conversation stayed with me. It felt so natural: we hit the regular beats, said all the right things. She told me about the death of her father with the cadence of everyday small talk--a death caused by a vaccine imposed by de facto mandate; a vaccine the government assures us is perfectly safe. 

According to the statistics on VAERS, these sorts of conversations are taking place at craft fairs, school Christmas concerts, and holiday gatherings all across the country. 

To date, the reports of adverse events for the covid vaccine include 20,244 deaths, 33,676 permanent disabilities, 10,229 heart attacks, 19,039 incidents of myocarditis, and 106,129 hospitalizations. According to Steve Kirsch's research based on anaphylaxis incidents, these numbers are underreported by a factor of 41. 

The evidence is clear. This Advent, interwoven with listening to Handel's Messiah, exchanging tins full of molasses cookies, shortbread, and Russian tea cakes, and shopping for the perfect Christmas tree, people are caring for a son, now permanently injured from the vaccine, a husband who's weakened from a heart attack, and mourning a parent's sudden passing.

The atmosphere of Christmas is usually reflected in joyously silly movies like White Christmas, and heartwarming movies like It's a Wonderful Life, which remind us that actions have far-reaching consequences, and that the individual matters. 

There's still the typical parties, with steak, cheese charcuterie boards and spiked eggnog. And once again, we're listening to the fire truck blare Christmas carols through the neighborhood, while sitting at home, stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree and sipping cider mulled in cinnamon and cloves. 

But there's a different spice in the air this year. It's not the comforting blend offered in a story like Truman Capote's “A Christmas Memory”, in which he relates a childhood memory of flying kites on Christmas morning with a dear aunt.

It's much sharper. There's an unsettling harshness to it. It's more akin to the horror in Shirley Jackson's short story “The Lottery," in which a small town of 300 or so gathers for its annual ritual of picking numbers from a black box. 

Next, the mob descends up on one unlucky individual to stone her to death. 

The real shock of the story is the ordinary way in which the monstrous ritual is conducted. Just before the lottery, the men discuss crops and weather, and the women exchange gossip. The lottery is run by the same man who organizes the square dance, the teen club and the Halloween program. 

Stoning someone to death is just part of life in this small town in America.

In our blasé acceptance of the suffering brought about by this vaccine, we've embodied Jackson's characters without missing a beat. 

It's just the way things are now,” we're collectively saying. “Decent people get vaccinated, and some of us will die or be seriously injured from it.” 


Earlier that same weekend I attended a funeral Mass and burial for an infant who died when the mother went into labor 22 weeks into her pregnancy.

The would-be first time parents couldn't come close to communicating the devastation and horror of it all, but they told about her water breaking in the middle of the night, the mother spending a week in the hospital hoping and praying she wouldn't go into labor, her contractions a week later, and the two of them watching as their little girl's heart stopped beating during her first few moments in the world. 

They held her in the palm of their hands, lovingly touching her tiny fingernails and little feet. 

Just two weeks earlier my friend had been telling me about the books she was selecting for their baby shower registry. 

And now she's crying like she can't stop. And then crying some more. Sobbing, convulsing, late into the night. 

Both parents are vaccinated. The mother speaks of the unvaccinated in the same way she'd talk about poor uneducated trailer trash. And so any correlation between the vaccine and this infant demise would sound to them like a non-sequitur. 

Yet, not a few expecting mothers have reported spontaneous abortions following their covid vaccine. The current VAERS number is 3,297.  As I mentioned earlier, these numbers are underreported by a factor of as much as 41, so a more accurate estimate is closer to 135,000.

We'll never know if the vaccine caused this particular infant demise. No one has looked into it, nor will they. But, given the VAERS statistics, it's just as accurate to say there's no way anyone could claim the vaccine couldn't have played a part. 

The accurate statement, then, is that the vaccine may very well have caused this mother's water to break at 22 weeks, and the delivery of a baby several weeks premature, who died within minutes.

The priest led us in prayers at the cemetery, talking about the angels who would come to welcome her, and ending with “eternal rest grant unto her and may perpetual light shine upon her.” 

Later, he told us that two other young couples from the parish had reported miscarriages that same week. 

A few months earlier, this priest, standing before the altar following Mass, pleaded to all of us to take the vaccine. He was praying that we would. 

Whoever Has Ears Ought to Hear

My sister and I attended Sunday Mass on her visit. After the priest made the final blessing and we all started to exit, she looked startled. 

What?” she turned to me. “No St. Michael the Archangel prayer? Every Church I've been to these past three years says it. I was expecting it. This is the first church I've been to who hasn't said it.” 

I, too, had noticed this phenomenon springing up, of parishioners kneeling and praying the St. Michael the Archangel prayer following the final blessing. During the riots in Portland in 2020, The Archbishop of Portland even instructed parishes in his Archdiocese to pray it following Mass. 

The Prayer to St. Michael used to be prayed at the end of the Tridentine Liturgy, and I believe it fell out of practice with the rollout of Novus Ordo in 1969, following Vatican II.

In 1884, Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer after receiving a vision while standing before the altar following Mass. As the story goes, he fell into a trance and saw Lucifer conversing with Jesus:

I can destroy your Church, I only need time and power.” Jesus granted him both. 

The Pope also saw St. Michael the Archangel casting Lucifer and his legions into hell. 

Here is the prayer we now say, much abbreviated from the original version

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

(It's curious that this passage, from Pope Leo XIII's original transcription, has been removed: 

These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.)


Recently, I read the first chapters of the Book of Revelation and was struck by the repeated refrain “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the spirit says to the churches.” It's repeated seven times between chapters 2 and 4. The author is speaking to the church of Ephesus, and the six surrounding Churches, many (possibly all) of which Paul established in his second and third missionary journeys. 

I am at a point where my eyes cannot roll further back, my disdain could not grow any deeper, my revulsion could not be any stronger at the idiocy and inhumanity I witness over and over and over again at the hands of priests. 

Watching a priest propagate the infanticide of children in his parish after celebrating Mass feels like too much to bear. 

But I do find it curious to see this prayer creeping back in. It's reassuring. It's as though to say: on a surface level, the Church is clueless. But the Spirit appreciates what we're up against. And has poised the Church for battle.

Wonderful Counselor?

The Advent season of 2021 has been a mind-fuck indeed. (I mean, look at these numbers of injuries from VAER's red-box summaries. Do you see any problem with claiming that the vaccine is safe?)

Watching people passively, and more often aggressively, jump on the vaccine train reminds me of that scene from Trains, Planes and Automobiles, where Steve Martin and John Candy get criss-crossed and start driving on the wrong side of the highway. 

When well-intentioned drivers scream out to them “You're going the wrong way!!!”, the pair puts their thumbs to their nose and wiggle their fingers. 

How do they know where we're going?” they hoot.

Then they see two semi-trucks driving straight at them at 70 MPH. 


A few months ago, I prayed, and told Jesus he felt like the sort of friend who's great to have around, but that I couldn't see much more to him that that. 

Any notions reflected in Isaiah 9:6, all of that about being a "Prince of Peace" and a "Wonderful Counselor" I just didn't see. 

A few nights later I was awoken to the moon, peeking behind a shroud of clouds.

It was beautiful.

And I heard Jesus asking me, rhetorically: “So you don't think that I am powerful?”


I don't have a lot of hope for the world situation. It's horrific to watch people stubbornly, self-righteously dig their own graves, and so many more casually accept mass suffering. 

The hypnosis is so resolute that an epiphany feels like a big ask. Not a few vaccine advocates spit upon anyone who suggests they're driving in the wrong direction. 

But perhaps my despair is a matter of perception. 

As a Catholic, I know we've inherited a fallen state; the sin of Adam became the sin of us all. But I also know we're better off because of it: “Oh happy fault, or glorious sin of Adam which gained for us so great a redeemer.” 

During her dark nights, The Little Flower resorted to making acts of faith. As she recounts in her autobiography: 

The fog that surrounds me becomes more dense; it penetrates my soul and smothered it so that I could not picture the sweet image of my Fatherland. When I try to find peace...my torment redoubles. The voice of unbelievers come to mock me, saying 'You are dreaming about the light, about a Fatherland embalmed in the sweetest perfumes; you are dreaming about the eternal possession of the Creator of all these marvels; you believe that one day you will walk out of this fog that surrounds you. Hope on! Hope on! And look forward to death. But it will not give you what you hope for, but a more profound night, the night of annihilation.' 

Although I had not the consolation of faith, I forced myself to act as if I had. I have made more acts of faith in the last year than in the whole of my life...I tell Jesus I am ready to shed blood to the last drop to profess my faith in the existence of heaven. 1

No doubt about it, an especially dark night is descending up on us this Advent. It's unlikely we'll experience any consolations in the immediate future that we've been gifted with an Almighty God, a Prince of Peace who will reign forever and ever. 

This year, more than ever, trusting in this reality requires act of will. Just like the Little Flower, it requires making acts of faith...possibly more than we've made in the whole of our lives. 

1 St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul. Chapter X.


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