After celebrating our 9:00 am Mass, I was filled with joy and hope. The liturgy was prayerful and spirited, thanks to the deep faith and strong community. But my mood quickly shifted to shock and grief as I learned about the slaughter, yes slaughtered, of over 100 human beings, fifty who lost their lives. It appears one man planned and carried out this horrific event that lasted hours, and it was perhaps carried out in the name of ISIS. The details are still sketchy, but one thing is clear: this was an act of hatred and bigotry against the LGBT community. The father of the alleged shooter said his son was deeply perturbed when, two months ago while in New York, he saw two men kissing. To respond with such unspeakable violence suggests that much more was going on within the mind and heart of this young man.
What is our response to what has occurred, and what is happening with greater frequency? First, prayer, for the victims and their families. Second, try to limit the non-stop watching of the endless network and cable coverage. Third, don’t give into fear or generalizations. Fourth, learn about the teachings and tenets of Islam. Fifth, read the historical background to the Middle East and its seemingly constant struggles and divisions.
As a culture, I hope we can have an open and honest discussion about gun violence and the Second Amendment. Did our Founding Fathers envision that this amendment would be used to defend ordinary citizens amassing an arsenal of weapons, including Uzis and other rapid fire guns? But gun violence doesn’t occur in a vacuum, it is connected with the violence we see in the various forms of entertainment, the violent language we use in common discourse, the lack of respect for people who are different from us or who are vulnerable to a culture of indifference. Human life must be respected at all stages, and this respect includes facing a culture that often treats people as objects of manipulation.
What happened in Orlando demands thought, prayer and open dialogue. The issues are deeply complex and demand, not knee-jerk reaction, but thoughtful reflection. In the meantime…pray, pray, pray.
PEACE. Fr. Frank