Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

A boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas, presents a flower in memory of a shooting victim during Mass May 25, 2022, one day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. (CNS photo/Nuri Vallbona, Reuters)

Pray with intention to act in the wake of shootings

BY MARNIE MCALLISTER, CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

After an all-too-common massacre is visited upon a community in this nation of ours, such as the one perpetrated on the city of Uvalde, Texas, May 24, or the shootings earlier in May at a California church and a grocery store in Buffalo, we offer our thoughts and prayers.

Ten years ago, after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, saw the killing of 26, an outcry against “thoughts and prayers” rippled across the nation — that sentiment was no longer enough.

After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, young people expressed their frustration with the inaction of adults and said our “thoughts and prayers” needed to lead to action.

As Catholics, of course, we don’t dismiss the power of prayer. But we also know and believe wholeheartedly that prayer is a key part of how we live our faith. Prayer isn’t something we do passively and it is often what leads us to action.

Our minds, our hearts, our bodies — our whole selves at times — are engaged in the act of prayer. And we pray with intention.

With the victims of the latest massacre on our hearts — the sacred lives of 19 children and their two teachers — how will we pray and what will our intentions be? Let us consider that with great sincerity. And let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions thereafter, to help us discern our next steps.

One thing is certain — these massacres have to stop.

At his audience on May 25, Pope Francis said, “It’s time to say ‘Enough’ to the indiscriminate trade of weapons!” and encouraged all to be committed in the effort “so that tragedies like this cannot occur again.”

Children should not be slaughtered in their schools by semi-automatic rifles. Shoppers should not be gunned down in the grocery store. Worshippers should not fear that their sanctuaries will be invaded by someone wielding guns.

The high school student who allegedly carried out the May 24 massacre reportedly bought two semi-automatic rifles soon after his 18th birthday last week — legally under Texas law.

He also had no trouble buying military-grade body armor that may have helped him escape harm initially when an officer posted at Robb Elementary School tried to stop him, according to a report from CBS

Some bishops were quick to follow Pope Francis’ lead and reissue the U.S. church’s perennial call for common-sense gun control laws that could regulate the sale of weapons that can do such devastating violence so quickly.

“Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, tweeted May 25. “The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a tweet May 24 that the right to life trumps the right to have weapons and that “the Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai.”

“The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life,” he said. “Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them.”

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, whose diocese includes Uvalde, has spent the last days comforting his people.

He said May 24: “The Catholic Church consistently calls for the protection of all life; and these mass shootings are a most pressing life issue on which all in society must act — elected leaders and citizens alike.”

“We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable.”

Let us join him in his prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to consider how we can help.

Marnie McAllister is the editor of The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky. 

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