Lest we forget …

These irreplaceable people lost their lives in Newton Connecticut one week ago today.

Don’t let political squabbling make us forget them.

Dozens of Michigan Schools Close Due to Rumors of Violence

Dozens of Michigan schools cancelled classes today because of fall-out from the Sandy Hook tragedy, combined with the Mayan calendar nonsense.

This is just a symptom of how raw the people of this nation are this week.

It raises the question that I asked here. Why did our leader rush this country into a divisive debate on gun control before the victims of this latest atrocity were even buried?

Grieving our losses and trying to bring ourselves and our families together for a holy and healing Christmas are about all the people of this country can handle right now.

Aside from executive orders, which I think would be terribly unwise, there is nothing that can be done until after the New Year. Congress and the president are engaged in an insult-slinging fight over the “fiscal cliff.” Isn’t playing chicken with our economic security enough trauma from Washington for now?

A wise leader understands that there is a time for everything. I believe that opening a debate about solutions — especially when the proposed solutions are things that divide us — is poor leadership in this sensitive time. I think it is uncaring leadership. By that I mean that I think the president has focused on taking advantage of what he sees as a political opportunity and ignored  the well-being of the American people. There was no practical reason why he had to open this debate this week. None.

The Associated Press article about school closings in Michigan reads in part:

DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.

Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, saidJohn Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.

Last week’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school “changed all of us. … Canceling school is the right thing to do,” Genesee County schools said in a statement. (Read more here.)

 

Unseemly haste …

The funerals are not finished.

Why did the President rush this country into a divisive debate about gun control before the victims of this tragedy were buried?

Why the unseemly haste?

Couldn’t he have given this country time to grieve before pushing us into another political fight? Would it be so hard to wait a few days?

Christmas is in four days.

Why didn’t he at least give us time to bury our dead and be together with our families at Christmas before forcing another battle on us?

Internet Trolls Torment Newton Priest

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at The Anchoress and is one of the most generous people it has been my privilege to know, wrote today about another egregious example of internet cruelty.

The internet gives the mentally unbalanced and the just plain mean people among us a way to hit out at others. Troubling events agitate these folks and get them moving.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has been a magnet for both the good and the bad among us. Almost everyone has responded to it with compassion, grief and love. But the nasty unhinged are still out there, doing their worthless thing. Elizabeth wrote about one of the sorrier aspects of this sorry behavior: The attacks on a newly-ordained priest who has faced his personal baptism by fire in ministering to the shattered people of his parish in Newton Connecticut.

We need our pastors most in times like this. It is to Fr Suarez’ everlasting credit that he is there for these people. It is to the everlasting discredit of those who are attacking him that they are behaving this way.

I’m going to lift a hefty chunk from Elizabeth’s post. I want you to be able to read it and get the gist of what’s happening and the opportunity she offers us to help. Be sure to read the rest of the post here.

Do you remember this picture, of these priests, Monsignor Robert Weiss and Father Luke Suarez, at the scene of carnage in Newtown?

Well, while I’m sure both priests are seeing some hate it seems the young Father Suarez, who is not two years a priest, is being targeted by creatures who enthralled to the ugly and the dark. Writes his sister, in an outreach. All emphasis mine:
My friends,
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now. . .Monsignor…is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.
My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.
I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.
But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.
I read stuff like this and I think of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction telling Tim Roth, “I am the tyranny of evil men, but I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be a shepherd.”
I’m putting cards in the mail to both priests — what a good idea — and also remembering them in my prayers. Will you, too?

Biden Holds First Gun Control Meeting

Vice President Joe Biden began meetings on possible gun control legislation today.

The most interesting point, at least for me, is that the vice president indicated that he expects votes on whatever he proposes after the first of the year.

I interpret that to mean that the President has probably decided not to issue executive orders about this, at least for now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives has announced a push to ban the sale of high capacity magazines. This is not a new idea. Senate Democrats tried to attach such a ban to an unrelated piece of legislation last summer.

What all this means to us is that we have a window of time to think about this and decide what we want our Congress and president to do. From all indications, the Democrats are focusing their efforts on gun-control and ammunition control legislation. Although they mention a more comprehensive approach in their comments, the focus and the first thing they mention is always guns.

I’m going to try to write several posts that I hope will lead Public Catholic readers into a serious conversation of all these issues. It’s our country and we need to be part of the discussion about its future.

The article concerning Vice President Biden’s meeting today says in part:

Wasting no time, Vice President Joe Biden meets on Thursday with “law enforcement leaders” from across the country to launch work on a series of recommendations to battle gun violence in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The 1 p.m. meeting is to include White House officials, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the White House said.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday tasked Biden with leading an administrationwide effort to craft concrete proposals for tackling what Obama called an “epidemic” of gun violence. The vice president will report back no later than January.
Obama pushed Congress to pass a series of traditional gun control measures quickly. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons,” he said on Wednesday. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.”
He added, “I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner.”
But he also embraced a broader approach, stressing that “there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.”(Read more here.)

Obama Puts Biden in Control of Gun Control Initiative

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama announced today that he has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of his efforts for reform concerning shootings such as what happened last week at Sandy Hook. Vice President Biden is a long-time supporter of gun control.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York called a press conference in which he pushed the president to use his executive order powers to make a unilateral regulation which would be a de facto form of gun control. President Obama has refused this, at least so far.

Unless President Obama does decide to use his executive order power to make a sweeping change on his own, this process will take quite a while. For one thing, Congress is still embroiled in the “fiscal cliff” debate. If the president allows things to proceed normally, I would expect him to announce more specific changes at the State of Union Address. However, there is nothing written in stone about that assumption.

One question, at least for me, is whether or not anyone in this administration sincerely intends to discuss this problem and look for solutions. Are they just saying this with the intention to concentrate on a single-law answer? I am also concerned about civil liberties generally in this climate and with this president. He has already shown a willingness to trample religious liberties.

Right now, he has the backing of the public. I also expect most of the press to support whatever he does unthinkingly. A lot of people are signing on to vote for and support what he comes up with without having any idea whatsoever what it will be or what it will entail.

As for me, I will continue to urge Public Catholic readers to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive and long-term approach to thinking about this. Use your minds, and don’t let propaganda and emotion carry you away.

The Associated Press article describing President Obama’s new initiative says in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching an administration-wide effort to curbgun violence, underscoring the growing political consensus over tightening gun restrictions following the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama is tasking Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime gun control advocate, with spearheading the effort. In remarks from the White House on Wednesday, Obama will outline a process for pursuing policy changes following the school shooting, though he is not expected to call for specific measures.

The president has vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to safeguard the nation’s children after Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school by a gunman carrying an arsenal of ammunition and a high-powered, military-style rifle.

The White House sees some urgency in formulating a policy response to the shooting, even as Obama and his top aides are consumed with averting the “fiscal cliff” before tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January. The incident has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some fear that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.

Many pro-gun lawmakers also have called for a greater focus on mental health issues and the impact of violent entertainment. White House aides say stricter gun laws alone are not the answer.

“It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carneysaid Tuesday. “It calls for not only re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.” (Read the entire article here.)

Whither we are tending …

America has suffered a series of terrible tragedies in the past 20 years.

This is a recent feature of our American history.

We went for over two hundred years without facing the insanity of repetitive mass murders of innocent civilians in public places by socially inept angry young men. There have been incidents of mass violence throughout our history, including at least one school bombing in the 1920s.

But the present-day phenomena of one shooter killing people one after the other for no reason began with the clock tower at the University of Texas back in the 1960s. There was a decades-long lull between that atrocity and the next one. Now, they are occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?

That is the first question we need to ask about this problem. It would be a huge mistake to come up with a solution without first working out exactly what the problem is that we are trying to solve.

I don’t want to contribute to the word-salad propagandizing that passes for commentary these days. I honestly think that this behavior on the part of people in the media has contributed to this problem. I believe emphatically that it has contributed to the fractured, unthinking way we respond to things. This needs to stop. We the people need to start thinking things through for ourselves.

I’m going to run through the various questions that have been raised by those who are proposing solutions. I’m also going to add some observations of my own. But what I am not going to do is try to whip you up into a froth of emotion. I also will not tolerate those who try to use the com boxes to do that. I want intelligent discussion, not ugly bizarreness.

This is a Christian blog. It’s purpose is to equip Christians to deal effectively with the challenges we face and to be fruitful witnesses for Jesus. That will be our focus.

This is all I’m going to say about whither we are tending today. We aren’t going to find a solution for this problem in a day. Or a week. Unless the President does something unilateral, it will be a slow and contentious process to get anything done at all. We not only need to spend some time thinking, praying and talking this through; we are required by circumstance to let it sit for a while.

All these pundits who push, push, push at controversial issues are doing it because controversy raises their ratings. This has become such an exaggerated, all-consuming focus with many of them that they focus on controversy at the expense of the facts or of fairness. This harms all of us.

I’m going to begin tomorrow with a discussion of changes in the past quarter century which I feel might have contributed to this problem. I’m really interested to what you think is creating this problem.

Then, I’ll list the various ideas people have for reform in government. However, I am convinced that the solution to this problem is not something we can achieve by just passing laws. We need to look at more than legislative changes.

We are going to take a break for Christmas. And then begin again in the New Year. I will also begin the series I was writing on how government works again after the New Year.

Before we do anything, I think we should all take this to the Lord in prayer. I know that I am going to.

Finding Normal

It’s still Advent.

Christmas is right around the corner.

We have to pull ourselves out of the grief cycle and find normal again. This isn’t easy. It’s never easy. But after a season of repeated tragedies layered on top of a tumultuous political campaign, it’s even harder.

Finding normal is the work in front of us.

Advent is a holy season of self-examination and repentance. Those activities seem especially fitting in this week after Sandy Hook. We need to use these days of prayer to draw closer to our God and seek His comfort and His direction.

At the same time, we have the work of preparing for Christmas. We have presents to wrap, food to buy and houses to clean. If we have little children, it is our responsibility to create Christmas for them. Remember that Christmas is more than presents and feasting. It is the birthday of our Savior.

Once more Americans have to find normal and live normal after a national tragedy has taken normal away from us. We will find normal in everyday things; in the cleaning, wrapping, praying and confessing of real life.

Healing comes from loving and living. It is in the warmth of our friendships and families; the safety of our homes. The dailiness of life will heal us, if we let it. Our resilience is in our faith and our ability to trust that even when things go wrong they are somehow also going right.

It is still Advent.

Christmas is coming.

And America is trying to find normal, once again.

In the Hands of God

Nobody died.

Nobody can die.

We are immortal souls clad in mortal bodies and we can not die.

“Your god didn’t save even one child,” one of our atheist readers said to me in private.

Not true. He saved every child.

Not one of these precious babies died. Their bodies stopped and they stepped out of them into the arms of our loving Lord. That’s all that happened to them.

Their parents, their school and community and our nation are devastated by their passing. We are torn into ribbons by the violence and insanity that took them from us. Death is real this side of the grave. Death is the devastation of unyielding loss and gone-ness. They are gone from us. We will never see them, hear them, touch them again in this life. In the words of King David, we can, and will, go to them one day, but they will never again come to us.

But even in the face of such tragic and overwhelming loss, we do not need to yield to the hopeless bitterness of my atheist friend. We know the truth of eternal life. They are not dead. No one died. Even though it may be decades in the future after we have lived long lives without them, we will see them again one day.

The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. Wisdom 3:1

Sisters of Life

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