The Catholic Spirit invited readers in its Dec. 20 edition to respond to the question: What is the best way to respond to the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn.? The following were among the answers we received.
The best way to respond to the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., is to work for life-affirming spiritual values. Both gun regulations and providing better mental health services are wise, but more is needed. We allow the proliferation of violent video games because we believe in free speech, yet at the same time we’re pushing any mention of God and religious expression out of public life —even though we’re supposed to have freedom of religion in this country, not freedom from religion. Can this aspect of our culture be anything but confusing for young people who need positive examples to live by?
Another problem is the lack of respect for human life. If we can sanction killing unborn babies on demand through all nine months, why do we think that life in other stages will be seen as valuable and will be respected? Our culture itself is our biggest problem if we don’t remember that we’re also spiritual beings with spiritual needs.
St. Peter, Forest Lake
The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., will be remembered for a long time — so near to Christmas, so many victims, so very young. Heartbreaking is an understatement. It’s hard to find the right words to describe this. We can only imagine how all those lives will be affected by this act of violence.
I was struck by a phrase expressed by the president, news broadcasters and citizens of Newtown: “They are babies. Who would do this to babies?” I believe it is the innocence of young children that warranted the question of who would do such a thing — or why. But the reference to babies struck a deeper chord because we have sanctioned the deaths of millions of babies, even more innocent than the victims of Newtown, who have no right to life on their own because they have not yet been born. I hope I am not the only person who finds some irony in this situation.
The Christmas season is a fitting time to remember the Holy Innocents, those babies killed by order of King Herod, who wanted to be certain that no Christ would usurp his power. It is also a fitting time to ask whether the lack of regard for the unborn is but one step leading down a path to a place we dare not imagine, a place where we might wonder just whose life is seen as worthy of protection.
Perhaps to suggest such a correlation is too simplistic or even too oblique. There is the mental state of the shooter to consider and his easy access to weapons, both of which have a direct connection to the tragedy. But the question might be asked: “If we don’t protect the unborn, what next, who next?” I can’t help but wonder if this is an example of “who next?”
This is a time of hope and gladness, and in the face of tragedy. I believe Christ challenges us to find that hope and joy. Especially in the Christmas season, let us consider the perfect tenderness of the Infant Jesus and embrace all that entails; let us reflect upon the sufferings of Christ who brought about the forgiveness of our sins; and let us rejoice in the Risen Christ, who remains with us throughout our entire lives.
May we all experience the compassion of Christ in our pain, accept his forgiveness for our sins, and know his salvation in eternity.
St. Boniface, St. Bonafacius
St. Mary of Czestochowa, Delano
A tremendous amount of good could be done if employers in communities throughout this country allowed their employees to make payroll deducted contributions to organizations that can effectively channel funds to school-based violence-prevention programs. Funding can be used to not only teach empathy, cooperation and positive problem-solving skills, but also to help at-risk kids with mental health services, extra tutoring and mentoring.
We need a community response. Letting people make payroll contributions to help stop violence, like employers already do to help social service groups, health charities and environmental groups, is overdue. It is not complicated. Employee fund drives already exist. People want to support schools and violence-prevention efforts. The framework exists for effectively preventing violence.
What is needed is leadership within organizations that employ people (businesses, government, churches, nonprofits) to allow their employees to contribute to organizations like PeaceMaker Minnesota like they do the United Way, Community Health Charities and the Environmental Fund.
St. John the Baptist, New Brighton
The writer is executive director of PeaceMaker Minnesota.
I cannot respond to it in my own words because my mind is unable to put together a meaningful group of words to describe the shootings.?The Sunday after the incident our priest [Father Dale Korogi] put together the most meaningful group of words to respond to the shootings.
He said: “Our Carondelet students have been rehearsing daily for their annual Christmas program this Tuesday. I observed the kindergarteners engaged in what appeared to be rather complex choreography: a hand flying, a leg kick, a hop, a bop, a spin. I soon realized that it was all ad lib, ‘improvisation’ — they just couldn’t contain themselves. Their outsides were expressing their insides: unfiltered, irrepressible joy.?Even as we’ve adapted to our increasingly violent society, I can’t recall an act more wrenching than Friday’s unspeakable horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the news unfolded, I couldn’t shake the image of our own cherished 6-year-olds blithely singing of the joy of Christmas.
“’What should we do?’ That was the question posed to John the Baptist by the eager, the questioning and the desperate who were confronting the full-on sadistic force of the Roman Empire. John’s advice is restrained, measured: Be a good neighbor. Be generous, not selfish or exploitive. Give others a break; cut them some slack. Don’t be a bully. Live a decent life. John encourages them to live gently in their harsh world, so that the pattern of violence and meanness will end in them.
“In that vein, the psychiatrist and author, M. Scott Peck writes, ’The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual — for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately worn or lost.’
“Another sage, Mister Rogers, once said that when he was a little boy and saw scary things on the news, his mother would say to him, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’?We are the helpers. We keep Christmas so that those who look for the Lord’s coming — the eager, the questioning and the desperate — will find his gentle approach in and through us. We keep Christmas so that every aching heart might be the place of God’s advent, and every child a revelation of the coming Christ.”
Of all that I have read or heard since the shooting, this is the only thing that makes sense to me.
Christ the King, Minneapolis