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How Do We Respond? How Do We Live?


Pope Francis expressed his “sympathy and closeness in prayer” to the people of Boston, invoking “God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. He prays “that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free, and secure society for generations yet to come.”

Father Daniel P. Horan, a Franciscan friar in Boston, recalls the words of Thomas Merton about the “unspeakable” and eternal hope:

It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said. . . . It is the emptiness of “the end.” Not necessarily the end of the world, but a theological point of no return, a climax of absolute finality in refusal, in equivocation, in disorder, in absurdity, which can be broken open again to truth only by miracle, by the coming of God . . . for Christian hope begins where every other hope stands frozen stiff before the face of the Unspeakable (4-5).

Father Horan reflects:

I thought of Merton yesterday because there are times when our encounter with something so terrible and terrifying pushes us to the edges of the effable, leaving us unable to speak. Such experiences of sin and violence in our world are concrete experiences of The Unspeakable. 

I think that unspeakable would be evil. Forty-eight hours ago, people were stretching their legs, reading their papers, finishing their training, looking forward to a Monday off and watching people excel. Today, an eight-year-old has been killed, dreams have been shattered, and a community has come together. There were a lot of crazy things, of course, on the Internet. In the emotional images, and the confusion, and the pain of facing evil, realizing the fragility of life, people say things they regret. We give to charities and celebrate first responders and people witnessing to charity and hope. And some of our most powerful support can be in silence. I saw people signing offline yesterday to pray for the people affected by the attack, to pray for innocence lost, to pray for all those who died yesterday and will today who did not and will not make the news. There’s a real, palpable response, there, too, and I pray it brings some comfort and peace and courage.

I saw many tweets and sentiments about hugging children “a little tighter” last night. Would that that we every day treasured our lives and the people in them with a boundless love, reflecting that of our Creator. There’s a peace in that that no evil can truly shatter. 


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