Seeking in the time of loss

About this time each year, the pace of life in the parish slows down: schools are out on summer break, vacations have started, families take a weekend at the beach, or after a week of rain, a sunny Sunday provides a window to get the lawn mowed. I had a few things to do in the office on Sunday to prepare for a week away – my own respite of relaxation. The last thing to do was the weekly pastor’s column.

orlando-club-shootingI had intended to write about St. Anthony of Padua, the great Franciscan saint of the 13 th century, the patron saint of finding things or lost people. But the news of Sunday morning changed the mood and sense of a slow summer weekend. Prayers of the Faithful needed to be quickly changed even as multiple Baptisms and Eucharist were celebrated. Sunday mornings, even this time of year, have their own relentless pace.

Still, there is a column to write. Sitting down on Sunday evening, trying to put pen to paper, I was at a loss. I called friends in Orlando to see how they were doing; folks who might know friends of friends at the nightclub. They were in shock, as were so many of us, but the tragedy had not directly touched their lives through the dreadful news of a loved one lost, missing, or hanging on to the thread of life. But there were many whose lives are forever changed by the terror and hate brought about by one person.

How many of us saw the mother, distraught and terrified, only seeking some news of her son. The mother whose last communications with her son was the text message that he was hiding in one of the restrooms, but that the shooter was coming – and then silence. She too waited, working to hold down the panic. These two women and so many more, waiting, hoping, that something lost would be found.

“Anthony, Anthony, come around. There is someone lost to be found.” A simple rhyme from childhood that seems now so deep a prayer of hope in the aftermath of a day of terror and hate when so much was lost – loved ones, a sense of safety, and more.

Many, many years ago I lost a loved one in very different way, but one that was sudden, senseless, and cut short a life that would have been amazing. “Anthony, Anthony, come around. There is something lost to be found.” The immediate loss was the company of a loved one. But there are other less noticeable losses: a focus, and direction in life, a hope for tomorrow, and a vision beyond one’s one grief. In my own prayers on Sunday, I found my prayers focused on the survivors and families, that St. Anthony intercede in the days to come so that who was lost is well remembered, and those who remain not lose their way in this life.

As I write on the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, amidst our prayers for healing, comfort, and loss, it seems to me that we need to pray for those lost and those who mourn, but also for ourselves. Let us pray that in our shock, we not lose sight that this is a list that inexorably grows: Nickel Mine School, Columbine, Aurora, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook/Newtown, Virginia Tech, Umpqua Community, Boston, Ft. Hood, Navy Yard Washington DC, and now Orlando. Let us pray and rise with purpose to discover our way to live out the words of Micah 4:3, “They will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools.” May we become a people that do not lift sword against another nor pass on the ways of violence.

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