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After Christchurch Mosque Attacks, Combat Evil with Love

Mourners at a vigil for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand in Philadelphia, Pa, March 15, 2019. (Mark Makela/Reuters)

“My soul is forlorn.”

The words jumped off my phone Friday morning from Psalm 35. It was one of the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours that many pray and once again I couldn’t help but recognize the hand of God in the prayers of the Church — that so many of us would be praying this early in the morning after 49 people were slaughtered overnight, having gone to their mosque to pray on the other side of the world. The words from the psalms captured the morning. The blood of those who were murdered cries out for our hearts to be poured out in love — including in prayer — wherever we are in the world.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the closest church to National Review. I confess that given what just happened in New Zealand, I gave a passing thought to going to another Mass at another place Friday morning — we have so many choices in Manhattan (and in the northeast in general).

A few months ago — United Nations general-assembly week — I was standing in line for Confession there as counterterrorism police were doing a sweep right past me, not an experience every sinner has on the way to encountering God’s mercy.

I’d like to say that the fact that I wound up at St. Patrick’s anyway Friday morning was because I got beyond my cowardice. It’s probably more due to convenience and remembering the martyrdom of Fr. Jacques Hamel in July 2016 in France. His throat was slit in a remote village, during a humble morning Mass. The center of it all isn’t the only target. Wherever there is goodness, innocence, Satan wants in.

While there, in the quiet after the church opens at 6:30, before the 7 a.m. Mass, it was impossible not to feel a closeness to those who had died. It seemed impossible not to weep to God in love for these people I have never met — for mercy on those who have died and consolation for those who love them, whose lives are devastated and forever changed by the loss of their loved ones. All the human questions arise. Why? God help them! Why does He allow it? The longer I live, the more I know what I don’t know. And Good Friday becomes so much clearer. God loves us and loves us so much that He had to take on our pain so that He could redeem it.

Reading some of the other prayers of the Church today, there was this from Saint Aelred about the Passion and death of Jesus:

. . . he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

The more you read about the suffering of Christ, the more you read about the brutality of what happened in New Zealand, the most you see the need for gratuitous love in the world. From each and every one of us.

And, for the love of God, don’t let derisive “thoughts and prayers” tweeting and headlines keep you from calling on the power of God for a revolution of love. Enough with taking comfort in a mere feeling — and for goodness’s sake, the tweeting — take action, make a revolution of love begin with begging God for His continued mercy on our world with so much of its misery. Lift up the good, work for healing, and really, truly pray and trust in its power.

It seemed every time I looked up or around at Saint Patrick’s Friday morning — a day before the famous Fifth Avenue parade for the church’s namesake’s feast day — I noted what seemed a heightened police presence even in the early hours of Friday, I saw a dog sniffing the pews, the security guards seemed a little more cautious.

There are differences among us, but they didn’t seem all that important Friday morning. Love for God and the gift of life drew us nearer with the desire to alleviate some of the pain for those who suffer most.

When we talk about thoughts and prayers, it’s not meant to be a mere talking point for a press release or acceptable filler at a time when words fail, but an invitation to so much more — plunging the depths of faith, hope, and love to beg God to help us be instruments of His love to help raise all people out of misery.

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