Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Though I try to avoid being too topical in my homilies and letters, there are current events that cannot be ignored. The event now, of course, is the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which is best left without further description.
Our prayers are with those little angels and those who love them; the wounded and those who care for them and, yes, even the perpetrator; God alone can sort out this mess. I saw one small boy on TV describing what his teacher told their class as the attack was underway. She told her young students to get under their desks and cover up. Then she added, “And you can pray if you want to.” Even after 60 years of Supreme Court rulings against school prayer, when the heat is on, people reach out for help in the ways they know how.
Given that the city of Uvalde is over 80% Latino, it is likely that the local Catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, has already been inundated with requests for pastoral and practical help. When news of the attack first became known, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller was meeting with about 150 priests of that diocese. The meeting was immediately terminated so that the priests could go straight to Uvalde or return to their own parishes to provide what counsel and comfort they could. The enormity of the task even of scheduling and officiating, at so many funerals, is itself mind-boggling, as happened in New York after 9/11. Some parishes with large numbers of fallen police officers and firefighters had funerals backed up, two per day, for more than two weeks and beyond.
There can be no blinking at the fact that a shadow has come over the world over these past few months: Uvalde, the brutalization of Ukraine, major shifts in the global world order, open talk of nuclear conflict, economic dislocations, inflation, supply line disruptions, you name it. The 24-hour news and social media cycle feed it to us non-stop.
By nature I am not at all directive, but I have three suggestions for whomever may find them useful.
The first is to manage one’s media diet and immediate environment. It is one thing to be reasonably well-informed, but entirely unnecessary to be soaked and sodden by non-stop exposure to everything from full-scale disasters to petty political spats. Far be it from me to criticize God’s creation, but it’s unfortunate that God designed the stomach to eject what is bad for it, but not the brain or the heart. Our brains and hearts absorb whatever we are exposed to, but we can limit that exposure based on our particular needs without the least effect on what we actually need to know.
The second is to think about the positive things being accomplished. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Petaluma-based students will be graduating from college, high school and 8th grade over the next few weeks. Each one is a cause for congratulations and hope for the future, especially considering the obstacles which students, teachers and parents have overcome these past couple of years.
Finally, to reflect on the feasts and Mass readings over the next few weeks: Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Body and Blood of Christ. They were times of great hope, energy, tumult and forward momentum. Amid growing persecutions, the band of Jesus’ disciples and followers becomes the Early Church ready to take on the world with a whole new life in Christ.
I congratulate all graduates and their families, and wish everybody a peaceful, and grateful Memorial Day weekend.
Fr. Bill Donahue