A scene that’s sadly all too familiar to the United States, especially to Colorado, but quite foreign to idyllic Connecticut… Today we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a mere 20 miles from where this very author grew up.
This morning, the Archdiocese of Denver gathered in prayer to mark the morbid anniversary and to beg the Lord’s grace and nearness to those 26 who were killed, as well as all those injured and otherwise affected by the travesty in 2012.
Just over a dozen faithful from the Pastoral Center, Prophet Elijah House, and Most Precious Blood Parish gathered in the quad of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization to remember, pray, and honor those who lost their lives ten years ago. Following the reading of each name, a bell was rung as those gathered prayed, “eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.”
If you might indulge me to “break the fourth wall” in this article, this commemoration and prayer service hit home for me personally, having been born and raised in Connecticut, with family and friends in the Sandy Hook and Newtown communities, and having attended the evening prayer vigil there on Dec. 14, 2012. While I did not myself grow up in these communities, I suspect that most of my fellow Connecticutians, especially those in our small county, have vivid memories of where they were that day.
Seniors in a Catholic high school, the screech of the PA system in the middle of the day caught my classmates and me off guard. Slowly, painfully, mournfully, our principal shared the horror with our school and invited us to stop and join her in prayer. With tears flowing freely, many of us contacted friends, family, neighbors and competitors to check in.
That evening, filled with grief and shock, my mother and I traveled the short distance to participate in the prayer vigil for the 26 victims, their families and friends, and the larger community at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut. The large church was bursting at the seams, so we found our place outside, clustered with strangers by one of the church’s opened stained glass windows. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion met us at the doors of the church so that we, too, could receive Jesus, who was certainly grieving with us over the atrocities of the day, as he did at the death of his friend, Lazarus — “and Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35).
In the weeks to come, clergy and consecrated persons from the local community and all over charitably volunteered to provide support to the community — to those who lost someone and to those shocked in response to the profound loss of life and peace following such a terrible day. Funerals of both children and educators dominated the parish calendar. Support and gifts flooded in from all over the country. Suddenly, Newtown was a ubiquitous town name, attracting the local, regional and national news as well as the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church and the Hell’s Angels.
The grief, especially in Newtown, is ongoing. My heart continues to shatter for these families, friends and neighbors. The quiet serenity of suburban and rural Connecticut was rent by the extreme violence that took so many lives on Dec. 14, 2012. We here in the Archdiocese of Denver mourn alongside the Diocese of Bridgeport, who also today published a somber but moving story reflecting on this terrible tragedy.
Today, on the 10th anniversary of this tragic massacre, we remember the victims; we pray for their peaceful repose; we lift up their parents, families and friends, asking the Lord Jesus to draw near with his compassion, mercy, love and comfort. And we pray fervently that a tragedy such as this may never happen again, that God may bring healing and peace to each of our hearts, and that we may experience the safety and peace necessary for our full flourishing in the Lord.
Let us pray:
Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.