February 25, 2018

Another week has brought another act of senseless violence in our country. Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Ash Wednesday, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. Here is the text of his statement:

"We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life. May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing. Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today. I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, 'behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Mt. 28:20).”

This is the 18th school shooting in the United States since the beginning of 2018. That number alone is shocking - but it also means school shootings have become a regular part of our news. As I made the drive out to Our Lady Star of the Sea in Stevenson for the 7:00 pm Ash Wednesday Mass, listening to the radio reports of the shooting and hearing interviews with young people who were there, I wondered when we were going to see concrete action in response to these senseless acts of violence. While I am hopeful, I am not optimistic.

The difference between those two perspectives is that my hope rests in the Lord who accompanies us in our lives and through death to new and everlasting life. My lack of optimism rests on the inability to date of those charged with the preservation of the common good to address this issue. Ultimately my hope rests in God the Father, in His Son whom he raised from the dead, and in his enduring presence among us through the Holy Spirit. My hope rests in those who give themselves over to faithful discipleship - making commitment to Jesus’ reign of justice and peace the center of their lives.

Reasonable and faith-filled people can disagree about how best to address the epidemic of gun violence in our country. But, what we have settled for is no action at all. In January of 2016, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through their Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, issued a statement about gun violence that included the following call:

“We call on Catholics and all people of good will to urge their Senators and Representative to support policy and legislative measures that: a) promote mercy and peace-building in our communities by implementing reasonable regulations on firearms such as: Require universal background checks for all gun purchases; Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; Make gun trafficking a federal crime, and; Improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence, b) promote restorative justice by passing legislation to support important reentry programs that help people avoid re-offending, c) improve access to health care and treatment for those with addiction and mental health needs.”

May that call, made over two years ago, find resonance among disciples of Jesus and all people of good will. If it does, perhaps someday a shooting at a school will become once again a rare news event.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni