Jason, there was much wisdom in Jonah’s post yesterday. Children are dead and parents are suffering the deepest pain. Let them grieve. Our silence and our prayers, if we pray, are the best we can offer.
Of course, I’m not being silent as I campaign for silence. There is, after all, the media beast to feed. And its hunger can be an opportunity.
When I wrote about the pope tweeting this week, I talked a bit about silence. The fruits of contemplation can make for a much more constructive media product. And it does strike me that while it wasn’t your town or mine that was the scene of horrific crime on Friday, some of that global-community talk is true. We are connected in unprecedented ways. It might not be entirely healthy to watch, which may be why we feel so desperate to do or say something, often not helping matters. On the other hand, my soul is enriched by the words of a dad who ministers to us even as he buries his daughter. So there’s a gift we can be given, too, by the generosity of a peaceful soul.
Yes, it’s true, the odds that I might walk into a school tomorrow and do what Adam Lanza did are not high. (Yes, Mike Bloomberg, starting with the fact I don’t own a gun — but that is my choice.) But I don’t think Michael Pakaluk blows some of the questions worth asking ourselves out of proportion. I might not be likely to do what Lanza did, for a whole host of reasons. And while a butterfly is certainly not a child, if you were walking around killing butterflies for no reason, you wouldn’t be making positive contributions to the world in doing so. My point being: Our culture does overflow in poisons. I’m not inclined to make grandiose prescriptions about what to do. But I do know that we can make positive contributions in our roles, with the people around us. I don’t do my best at that every day. Sometimes I’m too busy with something I’ve come to make more of a priority on my iPad than the person in front of me. When was the last time we had a good chat, Jason? Not finding the time for a phone call or lunch isn’t the same as slaughtering innocents, but it’s also not helping one another find the good, be good.
I solicited those insights from Michael and I could not have been happier to receive them. And they’ve become a part of my reflection in the final days of Advent.#more#
I think what Cardinal Dolan had to say earlier this week is also fodder for reflection:
We Catholics traditionally recall a rather eerie, somber, chilling episode from the Bible every year in an otherwise upbeat, radiant, joyful Christmas holiday season. It’s found in the Gospel of St. Matthew (2:16-18), where the sinful, jealous, paranoid King Herod ordered the death of all the baby boys in the quiet neighborhood of Bethlehem, plotting to murder this rumored “newborn king” who could, he feared, be a rival to his power. We refer to those little babies as “the Holy Innocents,” and reverently recall them every Dec. 28, their feast day. St. Matthew the Evangelist, in relating this chilling episode, himself recalls the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice was heard . . . sobbing and loudly lamenting: It was Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more.”
The hundreds of “Rachels” in Newtown weep for their “Holy Innocents,” and we stand with Mary at the foot of their cross. “We don’t know what to say,” so we simply pray with and for them, we emotionally embrace them, and admit that perhaps what we all need most right now is that “Silent Night,” when the piercing cold became warm with love and the darkness radiant with angelic light, and a baby was born to bring peace and eternal life.
That “emotional embrace” in prayer can be a participation in a love, a peace, that can transform our own lives perhaps as much or even more than it may be a consolation in the lives of those who are suffering so deeply.
We so often talk about peace, in more ecumenical and secular venues. All the noise surrounding the horror in Newtown sure signals we don’t have a lot of it. In his Financial Times piece Thursday, Pope Benedict talked about a common seeking of the good that provides opportunity for “fruitful co-operation.” With some silence, maybe we can find the grace to grow in the examined life as we face an undeniable evil. We’d be a lot better off if we would acknowledge its presence — to reject and counter it — in our everyday lives, helping one another do so.
Sometimes the answers are just so much more fundamental than we realize. Requiring a constant and consistent tilling. And I don’t think we all need to subscribe to my or any theology, necessarily, to see that and welcome examinations of conscience. Perhaps most especially at a time when we’ve lost a common celebration of and protection of a flourishing civil society.
I do love your example of a butterfly, Jason, because it is so simple and beautiful. With a little more appreciation of the simple and beautiful between tweets or clicks or whatever our rush is about, we might help build a culture with just a little more innocence and respect for the dignity of one another.