The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was one year ago today. The horror was unimaginable. The pain altered our nation, at least on one level. We must not forget this day. We must pray for those who will live with this grief for the remainder of their days. We must pray for our nation, gripped by violence and fear as never before.
Sandy Hook was the second deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history! The legacy of this event holds many meanings for so many people. Does it move your heart and soul?
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. John of the Cross, a mystic and doctor of the church (1542-1591). St. John became a Carmelite at the age of twenty-one. John’s life was altered when he met Teresa of Avila, leader of the Carmelite reform movement and one of the greatest figures of this age. (This was an age in which division, and low spiritual practice by the baptized, was unsettling the entire Western church.) Teresa recognized in John a kindred spirit. She asked him to be her confessor and to help her initiate a parallel reform to her work among the female Carmelites.
This was an era of inquisition, not a safe time to be a spiritual reformer, even inside the Catholic Church. John’s own Carmelite brothers recoiled from his reforming movement and kidnapped him. They threw him into a Carmelite dungeon for nine months. (These were tough times, as I’ve said!) John endured ill treatment until his death at age forty-nine.
During his suffering John composed mystical verses that have astonishing psychological insight and rich poetic power. What was John’s subject? He wrote of the road traveled which leads the soul to become united in God’s unlimited love. This journey, he believed, was marked by both desolation and periods of intense joy. His classic, The Dark Night of the Soul, is better known today because of Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s long period of darkness.
Why do I mention John of the Cross today in connection with Sandy Hook? Well, as we pray for the consolation of those whose lives were damaged and altered so radically one year ago we must remember to pray and follow the way of light, the way that helps us to love the mentally unstable young people in our midst, touched so deeply by violence. We must pray today that God will shine his light upon all those who experience profound pain and confusion. We must hear the words of John of the Cross, who said, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.”
May we who follow Jesus “put love” into the world that remembers Sandy Hook and may we pray that God will “draw out love” from us and others. This is our only hope in this dark world. Jesus is still the light of the world and he shines through all that is good and fair, especially through his saints, people like John of the Cross as well as you and me. May God help us to be light this sad day.