Last November as her semester abroad was ending, my sister was planning on stopping through Paris on her way to Scotland for a week before meeting up with me in Rome. She originally planned to be in Paris only one day and one night. A couple of weeks before her trip she decided to skip Paris and fly straight to Scotland. On November 13, the exact day my sister originally planned to be in Paris, explosions rang out in the city as terrorists executed a coordinated attack throughout Paris. My sister was safely in Scotland and I met up with her in Rome the next week.
Last week in Munich there was a mass shooting at a shopping center near Olympiapark. Last November while in Munich, I walked past that shopping mall while I was touring Olympiapark. When I heard the news reports it struck me that, though thousands of miles away, I knew exactly where the terrible event was taking place. Furthermore, a fellow Franciscan University graduate was in the shopping mall with his youth group during the attack. They were travelling through Munich on their way to World Youth Day and luckily none of them were harmed, but I saw his facebook posts live during the attack.
Most recently we mourned the tragic killing of Fr. Jaques Hamel in France while he was celebrating Mass. In light of that, parishioners at the parish I work at have expressed concern, asking if we have a plan in place if an active attack were to occur at our parish.
These are only a few examples of the turbulent violence that is scourging our world today. Others, like me, have stories of just how close to home these tragedies are. Many have had the violence strike even closer than I, even witnessing it first-hand. Shock, sadness, anger, and fear are common and reasonable responses to the tragedies around us. We inherently want to feel in control, but the reality is events like these could happen anytime and anywhere. In our fear we want to have a plan, we want to avoid all risk, but we can't do that. We can not let fear keep us from boldly living. In light of this, I would like to speak those tremendous words that have permeated throughout the history of the Church, "Be not afraid."
I cannot speak better than St. John Paul II, but as your Christian brother, living with you among the fears of this world - the fear of terrorism, the fear of partisan political ideology, the fear of racial tensions, the fear of economic distress, the fear of the unknown other - I exhort you, fellow Christians, to not be afraid. To pray, pray for those whose lives have been taken, pray for peace, pray for justice, pray for your brothers, and pray for your enemies, PRAY!
It is easy to look at prayer and ask what it can do in the face of such evil, but therein lies our faith in God. That God is present, that God is here, and that our hope amidst the struggles and the terrors of this life is in Jesus Christ who died and conquered death in his resurrection. So stand as a witness to the world of the hope that is within you. We must not let fear turn us in on ourselves. We must not shrink in fear, rather let us grow in hope! Evil cannot sustain, it devours itself, but hope finds its fruition in the Love of God which remains forever!
Friends, in our grief, in our mourning, and in our anger, let us remember that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:13-18)
I originally had a different article I planned to post today, however, due to the recent events, I felt compelled to write this piece. Thank you for our prayers, thank you for your faith and your hope. The world needs now, more than ever, the hope and the work of Christians! All the angels and saints, pray for us.
“Let nothing disturb you; Let nothing frighten you; All things pass; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. The one who has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices."
- St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila)