Chaplains Respond With Humility To Newtown Shooting
Chaplains Stay Present To The Deepest Themes
With all the commotion in the media in the days following the school shooting in Connecticut it didn't take too long before all sorts of pundits and political thinkers were offering solutions and counter-solutions. The fear and trauma was so palpable it was simply too hard for some to sit with and be present to; we had to make sure this wouldn't happen again...or, at least, it would be less likely to happen. From banning assault weapons to putting armed guards at schools to increasing mental health programs -- hosts of topics are continuing to be tossed out as solutions. Yet in the midst of listening to all the endless babble of pundits splitting hairs and projecting political agendas into a tragedy's aftermath, I couldn't help but be impressed by the many chaplains and clergy that showed up to simply stay present and offer faith and compassion to grieving families and a grieving nation. The religious figures, for the most part, seem to have been the ones slowest to rush to conclusions and quickest to provide life-affirming energy to an intense darkness.
A local Catholic cleric was asked by a reporter what words he could give the families. "There are no words," Monsignor Weiss sighed empathetically, "but I've had so many families tell me how much just my presence has meant to them."
It's been one of the shining points of this, returning to faith and to silence, to candles and to an open-ended question and prayer to God. After all, most religious traditions recognize that this world is fallen, full of suffering, imperfect ---however you want to put it --the wisdom of old places the ultimate sickness deep in the souls and psyches of men. As the Dalai Lama once said, "it's not that internal transformation is the best way to create peace in the world. It's the only way." And from what I saw, the religious leaders of the different religions have been true to the importance of the inner process, the grief, the sadness, and the faith and traditions to lean on as a guide. While it's necessary to work as community for a healthier community, always, and that process will inevitably be political to some extent, it starts from within. Within the own mind and heart of each person, learning to live with from a space of both serenity and wisdom in a world that continues to be unjust and unpredictable.