On March 14, Denver’s Catholic school students honored the 17 victims of the Parkland, Fla. shooting not by rising to their feet in protest, but by dropping to their knees in prayer.
In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida, Youth EMPOWER, a branch of young activists affiliated with the Women’s March, declared that March 14 would be a National Walk-Out Day in protest of gun violence. This declaration became a viral social media campaign that reached virtually high school all students in the nation, and mainstream media coverage on the day reported countless schools participating.
Students in the Archdiocese of Denver took a different approach. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Elías Moo, superintendent of Denver’s Catholic Schools, encouraged pastors and principals to hold a 17-minute prayer service at their schools for the conversion of hearts and to intercede for the souls of those who have died in lieu of a 17-minute walk-out protest.
“We believe the first and most important response can and should be to unite in prayer,” Moo said. “At the core of what our country is confronted with today is a great spiritual battle, a battle for the soul of our society and nation.”
Among the schools that held a prayer service was Holy Family High School in Broomfield. Holy Family chaplain Father Joe McLagan led staff, students and parents in a rosary that morning.
Sophie Schmid, a sophomore at Holy Family, said of the prayer service that she “felt part of a greater spiritual movement for safety and peace.”
In a period of history where the national dialogue in regard to gun control revolves primarily around policy, Father McLagan referred to a Feb. 15 statement issued by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who said that “…tighter gun restrictions – as vital and urgent as they now are – will not solve the problem. We’ve lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result.”
“Our dignity contains such a reality to it that we need to learn how to forgive, we need to learn how to grow in holiness and learn that our salvation doesn’t come from policy but from the Lord,” Father McLagan said. “A policy is only as good as the virtues in the people. If you don’t have a virtuous people, what expects your policy to be virtuous? It starts with being on our knees and then going into action, not acting without going to our knees.”