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Be Not Afraid

People are on edge, and rightfully so. After one of the nation’s worst tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut, there continue to be copycat shooters throughout the nation, attempting to rob citizens of their peace.

It reminds me of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and it reminds me of the DC sniper attacks. At that time we lived in Northern Virginia (just outside of Washington, DC). On 9/11 I was glued to the set. I remember Maryland, Virginia and DC shut down. Just completely shut down. 66 and the Beltway were virtually empty – I know this because we were looking for a townhouse to rent and had to move out in two weeks. We were one of a handful of cars I saw that day. The details were still sketchy the day after, but the television was filled with tickers and pictures and scrolling this and that with more info about every nuance and detail you could imagine. My head was on overload. All I could think of was my three month old baby and my oldest daughter, who was in kindergarten, and what was happening to our nation.

When the DC sniper attacks began, it was barely a year after 9/11. Still raw from the wounds of 9/11 and because the details of the shootings came sporadically, each report spurred on a new fit of frenzy and panic. It wasn’t the same situation in which we sat in front of the t.v. and worried. The worry was beyond the television. The police were convinced the shooters were in white, unmarked vans. Everything we did took into account the possibility of being shot. I still remember that what-if fear, never knowing if and when the other shoe would drop – if my number would be called next. I carefully chose the gas station to fill up, zig-zagged when rushing in and out of stores so as to hopefully make it difficult for the sniper to “get me.” The worst was holding my toddler son while walking in and out of the childcare center. I worked there as a kindergarten teacher. Each day I contemplated if something should happen, what would be the best way to hold him so that my collapse would do the least amount of harm to him. Recounting this from ten years ago seems silly, almost paranoid. But it wasn’t.

When I first learned of the tragedy in Newtown, my first reaction was one of numbing. Though I have not lived through a tragedy of this magnitude, I couldn’t help but just turn to prayer on Friday. Details were sketchy – my kids needed me. Like, really needed me. I think it was God’s way of telling me to focus on the only thing that mattered that I could offer for those in Newtown.

Pray.

Just. Pray.

I kept a small watch on my Twitter feed, and watched what my friends were discussing on Facebook. That was it. No being glued to the t.v. this time. It took away from my contemplative prayer that God had clearly outlined for me as my task. Not only that, with the kids all home, I had good reason to not turn the t.v. on for fear of revealing too much for their young minds. Plus, not much information was being released. First they thought it was Ryan – then they changed it. It was Adam. I saw the reaction of people who posted on Ryan’s pictures with horrifying comments. No…what little I saw was enough. I was thankful to not have that ‘moth to the light’ attraction to the news.

Where we go from here, as Catholics, is to remember that the measure of our own judgment comes from how we judge others. We need to be careful which words we choose to use when talking about these tragedies and especially those who succumb to the evil that leads to those tragedies. Rather than wishing the shooter is in hell or that a special place in hell is reserved for the shooter, use that energy to pray for the repose of his soul. Pray for the victims. All of them. Including the shooter. Pray. Just. Pray. Turn your hurt and suffering into something useful for someone else.

My heartfelt prayers go out to

  • the entire town of Newtown,
  • for  the Sandy Hook victims,
  • for the first responders
  • the residents who took in students
  • for St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church
  • for Monsignor Weiss
  • Fr. Luke Suarez
  • for Nancy Lanza
  • and for Adam Lanza

If you feel moved to do so, please consider dropping a line via e-mail ( parishsecretary@strosechurch.com ) or snail mail to Monsignor Weiss at St. Rose of Lima. In fact, get some friends together and send a spiritual bouquet. It doesn’t need to be fancy – it just needs to be done.

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church

46 Church Hill Road, Newtown, Connecticut

St. Rose of Lima, pray for us!

+JMJ+