By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
It starts out like a sick joke – a man walks into a bar and pulls out a gun…
But, as I write, the country is still reeling after the shooting in Orlando this past weekend, trying to cope with the senselessness of the act, the pervasiveness of violence and hatred.
Especially difficult is hearing the stories of survivors. I was touched by the tears and haunted by the message of one survivor who lamented that there’s nowhere that’s safe anymore. We’re no longer safe in nightclubs, movie theaters, university classrooms, grade schools or churches. Hatred and intolerance seem to be lurking everywhere.
I can’t claim to have any answers, much less a quick and easy solution, but I do have lots of questions. How did we get here? How do we create a different milieu? Lectures and prayer vigils are wonderful, but can we do something that will foster change and prevent more occurrences?
I can’t help but think of a story from our Franciscan tradition. Toward the end of his life, as St. Francis of Assisi was dying, he was grieved to hear of the feud between the mayor and the Bishop of Assisi. He invited the two to come together and had the friars sing a new stanza he had added to his Canticle of the Sun:
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
As a result of the song, the two were able to be reconciled.
During this Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis, we have quite a task ahead of us. In spite of the darkness around us, we are called to be light and hope for our world, to be a stimulus for peace. “But,” Fr. John Kartje, author/theologian, warns us in his Year of Mercy blog, ”to enter the world of mercy is to enter the worldview of Christ, in which cheeks are turned, enemies are loved, and seemingly every rule of human nature that was designed to preserve order is cast aside.”
It’s a daunting task. But the message is clear. And the need is great.
Are we up to the challenge?