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Monday after Newtown – Bishop Paul

On the shooting of children and adults in Connecticut – Bishop Paul

Bishop Paul Marshall
Diocese of Bethlehem
Friday, Dec. 14, 4:40 p.m.

May I interrupt your own reflections to offer three thoughts.

1. My day has been such that I learned of the deaths of 20 children and 7 adults only minutes ago.

As I process this tragedy, primarily as a parent and grandparent, I experience shock, rage, grief, fear, and saddest of all, some familiarity. As our culture disintegrates, hardly a year goes by without at least one mass murder.

At moments like this there are any number of causes that could claim air time, and each might have a valid point. Perhaps the advocates of those causes will be respectful enough to wait until Monday before they offer solutions or stir us to action. We need first to have our grief and our shock, and to pray for the dead, the hospitalized, and those facing unendurable grief.

Let us be brave enough to take quiet time to experience the shock and horror of slain children, and then slowly claim solidarity with those throughout the world who have lived with such grief for generations. Let us claim solidarity with with all of those who experience the theft of the lives of those they love. Make room for the Spirit to pray within us with sighs too deep for words.

Let us, like Job, sit in ashes for a while this evening, absorbing what we cannot explain.

2. When I was the parent of young children it never once occurred to me, even when we lived in NYC, that their lives were in danger in their schools. I never had cause to imagine them terrified as a gunman took aim. My children never said that they went to school wondering if they might be killed. Nobody ever thought of teaching as a life-threatening job to have.

These are new days. We need to respect the fear that other children in Newtown area schools will have, the amount of trauma that they may suffer for the rest of their lives.

We already have prayers for parents, families, and young children in our prayer book. We will pray them with awareness that the emotional stress of just getting the kids up and sending them to school is going to be much higher for some parents on Monday morning. We will offer new prayers as well, prayers that reflect a moment the liturgy does not contemplate.

THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE GIFTS FOR WRITING might well share on Bakery the prayers, poems, or laments to God that arise in your soul. Perhaps others will find those offerings useful in their own public and private prayer.

In any event, let us carry those parents and young people in our hearts. Let us pray for our nation, for their can be no one whom this day's events leaves untouched.

3. I will take five minutes of your time on Saturday and Sunday. That is, I direct that prayers be said aloud at all services this weekend for the victims, the families, and the communities touched by these killings. I direct that the prayers also include a time of silence to remember, reflect, and ask what we ought to do to change our culture. I ask one more minute of silence to listen for the beginnings of answers.

If you have adult forum or other time for conversation, please share what you have heard in that silence. Perhaps you will want to share it here on Bakery on Sunday afternoon.

May God keep each of you and receive the souls of the departed with a deep embrace.

+Paul

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