Yesterday afternoon after my walk I came back to my desk and saw the beginnings of the awful news coming from Newtown. I looked up the school and saw that it was right by the intersection of I-84 and Connecticut Route 34, a spot I remember from many happy Friday and Sunday afternoons, driving back and forth to Capuchin vocation weekends at the former St. Francis Friary in Garrison, New York. At first things looked like perhaps it wasn't so bad, just some people hurt maybe, and I went to chapel early for Vespers so I could say a rosary for everyone at home. When I got back to my room after Vespers and supper, I saw that the situation had been discovered to be much worse.
So today I'm just praying.
I'm praying for those who were killed, that the adults may have peace in God and that the children, after the terror of their last moments, might know the embrace of God, an embrace of which that of their parents was the created sign and footprint.
I'm praying for the parents of the children who are dead, now living with a grief I wouldn't pretend to know or understand, surrounded as they must be now, at this time of year, with such terrible symbols of their loss: Christmas trees, presents never to be received.
I'm praying for the children who survived, whose lives will be forever impacted by what they have seen and experienced. May the mystery of the crucified and Risen Lord transform that memory into gentleness and compassion, so that it might not only be a nightmare that never goes away.
I'm praying for the shooter, that in whatever he should have found at the particular judgment, it may give glory to God.
But I'm also praying for someone else. I'm praying for the next guy, the next shooter, the guy who is somewhere right now, trapped in his sadness and anger and resentment, and for whom the unthinkable becomes each day a little more thinkable. I don't know who he is, but I know him a little bit. He's easy to be aware of, because everyone who has grown up in our society can know him. Our ancestors decided that they could do without God, and in their misplaced optimism they thought that in rejecting him they were lifting up human liberty and dignity. But they didn't understand that he himself was our freedom, and that this true freedom was our salvation. And so our supposedly liberated and dignified souls found themselves adrift, only to become dingy and beaten down by the rotten luxuries of the false glory of violent entertainment, the false joy offered by advertising, the false connectedness of pornography, the false solidarities of contrived identities of rebellion invented to make money off young people. And that's where the next guy is right now, I have no doubt. He's reaching out for something, but in places where it can never be found, and it gets worse every day. And as the imprisoned soul turns in on itself, the unthinkable gets a little more thinkable each day. And so I pray for him.
Most of all, though, I'm praying for another person I probably don't know. I have faith that God wills to inspire someone to say something to the guy who today begins to consider a plan to become the next shooter. God wills that someone, perhaps a very particular someone at a very particular moment, reach out in some way to that guy. I pray that she or he is praying, for it is by prayer that we become sensitive to the inspirations of grace. That is why we pray, not as if we could change God's mind or change the misery our insistence on our sin has already brought upon the world, but that we ourselves might be transformed into people more attentive to the promptings of grace, such that we might become clearer and more effective instruments of the salvation God desires to give us through each other. So whoever you are whom God today inspires to reach out to the guy who thinks to become the next miserable, lost murderer, I pray for you that you might be attentive to God's grace and generous in your response. Amen.