Peace with the Lamb — Even in Newtown

Peace with the Lamb — Even in Newtown December 14, 2013

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

When we hear these words at Mass, after the consecration, just before we are invited to partake in the greatest feast on earth, do we drink these words in?

“Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world!”

Exclamation point added for emphasis. But even as all mortal flesh keeps silence, how can your heart refrain from bursting?

In his The Book of Man, former education secretary William J. Bennett calls this one of his favorite prayers, the Agnus Dei. “It asks God for the final gift of peace.”

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

This is the point during Mass “where my tears flow steadily,” Jennifer Hubbard writes in the December issue of Magnificat.

She explains: “It is then that the pain becomes overwhelmingly raw. The wound that I think has started to heal is suddenly ripped open.”

Hubbard’s daughter, Catherine, was killed a year ago while at school at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Lambs are innocent, exposed, and vulnerable, and yet they are always protected. My lamb is Catherine. I knew her cry before it came from her lungs. I knew it was Catherine calling “Mamma” even though she was in a room full of children calling out. I knew where she was, even when I couldn’t see her. She is the lamb I knew had been called home before I truly understood what had happened. Just knowing — it is a gift God gave me when he placed her next to my heart for nine months. A gift he gave me when he allowed the quiet beating of our hearts to find rhythm next to each other’s.

“The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1). It was Jesus who was waiting for her as he welcomed his flock. He led her to still waters, and she fears no evil. She is the lamb, innocent and vulnerable — naïve to what the world was capable of. She is sheltered under vigilant watch; she is whole and is resting peacefully at his feet.

And I too am his lamb. It is myself he has cradled across his shoulders. He knows my heart aches to feel the beating of hers against mine. He acknowledges my cry, even when it hasn’t yet left my lungs. He hears my quiet calling through all the voices and comes to me. I know that he will guide me as I seek his guidance, and that he will answer my voice when I call out. He continues to scoop me up and carry me when the days seem too much. He shows his unending love in the simplest things that are undeniably Catherine. In doing so he reminds me that his promise has not been broken. He reminds me that one day he will gently lift me from his shoulders and place me beside her. When that day comes, I will close my eyes and relish the quiet rhythm of our beating hearts.

Her pastor, Msgr. Weiss, of St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown writes elsewhere:

We all quickly realized that if there was to be peace, it could only come from God. If unsettled hearts and disrupted lives were to be healed, it had to come from the hand of God. If we were to have any hope for tomorrow, it would be only if our God gave us the grace to get through one day and look forward to the next.

Indeed, faith has been an integral part of this community since the moment we were faced with this tragedy, and many people have renewed their faith because of it. Our religious services are well attended, and families are coming together in prayer. There is a sense of gratitude among us for each other’s presence.

Fr. Peter John Cameron, the editor of Magnificat, has long helped out at St. Rose of Lima on weekends. In this month’s issue, he remembers the Mass that night of the shooting. People couldn’t get into the church, but they stayed for Mass. Pointing to parents and spouses of those who were murdered who have been amazing witnesses of faith in Christ, in a speech on faith last January, Fr. Cameron quotes Madeleine Delbrel, a Servant of God, who once wrote: “Each time that we are torn apart because we choose to be faithful to God’s faithfulness to us, we become as it were breaches in the world’s resistance.”

“A credible witness,” Fr. Cameron writes, “is someone who is faithful to God’s faithfulness to him or to her … even if it tears the person apart.”

Because the Church is the mystical body of Christ, we’re called out of indifference to the suffering of our brother, the stranger, every bit as much of our own. That’s a point Pope Francis has been trying to drive home to us, so that it pierces are hearts. I try to write about this, and Sandy Hook, with a little help from that inspirational mother, Jennifer Hubbard, in a new piece on National Review Online here.

Let’s pray for all who suffer, that the light of faith might bring them consolation, to know union with the Holy Trinity. And that our prayerful weeping for their pain, may, too, be a grace for them.

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