Very typical "lake effect" morning here. Here is the view out my office window, taken a few minutes ago.
Last week, like many of you, I watched and listened as the events surrounding the terrorist attacks in Paris unfolded.
My heart ached for those who were murdered, as well as for their families and loved ones. All of this happened while I was at a faith formation conference in New Orleans. There, over a thousand people had gathered to discover ways to proclaim the Good News of salvation to those whom God entrusts to our care. There were sessions focused on RCIA, catechesis, faith formation for adults and teens, liturgy, and evangelization. As I reflected on the terrorist acts (apparently committed because the French magazine had published images of the prophet Muhammad), I became confused, wondering how cold-blooded murder could be the answer to what is felt as a deep wound against ones own faith and beliefs (in this case, a form of radical Islam). I thought about my own Christian faith and came to the conclusion that there would be nothing so heinous committed against my Christian beliefs that would have me turn to murder as a solution. So, I am left with a sense of befuddlement, certainly shared by many around the world, a befuddlement that, for me, began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
But this is all mixed up in my own mind. Just two months ago, I was in places in Italy where Christians were murdered just because they were Christians. And I was in places from where the call would have been issued to Christians to crusade against non-Christians through murder and slaughter. Over the holidays, I received the gift of spending time with my family in Massachusetts. My sisters are both living with debilitating diseases. When I look at them, I see more and more how precious life itself is. I have the sense sometimes that they look at every waking moment of their lives as a gift. And this inspires me beyond measure.
So all of this comes together in my mind and in my heart. Life is precious. Yet too many people, Christians and non-Christians alike through the centuries, have thrown life away; have destroyed what is precious not only in God's eyes, but in the eyes of the men, women, and children murdered in the name of religion.
Seeking some clarity, this morning I found the words of Cardincal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris. This was part of the message he asked to be read at all Masses in all Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Paris this past Sunday:
"I invite the Catholics of Paris to pray to the Lord for the victims of the terrorists, for their spouses, for their children and their families. Let us pray also for our country: may the moderation, temperance and self-mastery of those who have given proof of this up to the present be confirmed in the coming weeks and months; may no one yield to panic and hatred; may no one give in to the simplification of identifying some fanatics with the entire religion. And let us pray also for the terrorists, that they may discover the truth of God’s judgment.
We ask for the grace to be architects of peace. If justice is built, there is no need to despair of peace."
God, grant me, your befuddled servant, the grace to be an architect of peace.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.