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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

The Shooting in Connecticut

There’s been a shooting. Again. This time not at a university. Not in a parking lot. Not in a movie theater. Not in a shopping mall. This time in an elementary school—the worst possible place for a shooting.

At this writing, the reports say the lone shooter killed himself, six adults, and twenty children. My God! Twenty children! My eyes fill with tears at the news. My heart aches for everyone involved, but especially for those children, their parents, their families, their teachers.

The questions spew out. Again. Why did he do it? How did he get in? Couldn’t someone have stopped him? I, like you, walk around the rest of the day in a daze. I can’t stop thinking of the horror of it all. In my prayer I find myself saying to God: “Get me out of here! Take me out of this awful world where someone can kill twenty innocent children! I don’t want to be in a world where this kind of thing can happen. Take me to another place. Any place. Even hell can’t be worse than this.”

I try to balance my despair with the love and goodness so evident amid the horror. Those teachers. Such dedication and professionalism and (above all) love. Those parents doing the most heroic task in the world: raising a child. The police and rescue personnel, putting their lives on the line every day. The scores of medical personnel waiting in the nearby hospitals for the stream of ambulances that never came. Those priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, nuns, and psychologists who are there to help people pick up the pieces of their broken lives. Those reporters sensitively using their skills to try to help us understand the full truth of this terrible tragedy.

The lone gunman does not represent humanity, I tell myself. All those parents, teachers, police, rescue personnel, medical professionals, religious men and women, and reporters—THEY represent humanity. They who do their “jobs” day in and day out with very little recognition. They who have dedicated their lives selflessly to the well-being of others.

This was not the blog I had scheduled for this week. I wrote something on Mary and Joseph which I will post in a few days. But this tragedy made me think: It’s almost Christmas. And what are we celebrating anyway? We are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We celebrate how our almighty God came into this world—the same world I (at times like this) want to desert. How could I abandon the very world our God entered and (by doing so) made holier than it already was?

God came as a baby, the most vulnerable of beings. And as a baby, this Jesus will encounter evil from the very start. His parents will have to flee with him to a foreign land to save his life from a megalomaniac king who is slaughtering all the male babies in the area. The holy innocents, we call them. And this baby will not remain a baby. Through his life and teachings he will give us the key to transforming every hell into a heaven: Love. Selfless love. Unconditional love.  And despite his own love and goodness, he will be unjustly convicted, tortured, and made to endure a ghastly death. And even while dying he will amazingly forgive the very people who are executing him.

I don’t know the answer to the question “Why did this happen?” But I do know the answer to this question: “What should we do with our lives today–and every day?” The answer is always the same: love, love, love.

47 Responses

  1. Thank you, Melannie. Just yesterday I shared with some college students your reflection from Christmas 2001 when all was not calm, all was not bright. It was just a few months after the 9-11 attacks. Your message has not changed. God so loved us that God came to dwell here and show us that love. How can we turn our backs on a world that so needs reminders of that love today? Love — Kath

    1. Thank you, Kath, for reminding me of the message that doesn’t change…God’s love for us and our love for one another–even amid the darkness and struggles of daily life. Keep up your good work with those college students. They’re our future! Love, Melannie

  2. As a teacher and a mother who has raised two children, I can’t even imagine the horror of those who are affected most by this. As I sit here sobbing, I realize that I have been pushing this tragedy behind me, afraid to face the pain. I thank you for your beautiful thoughts that you shared. I needed to let it out.

  3. Melannie,
    Thanks for helping to express the deep feelings and frustration felt at the sadness surrounding the Connecticut shooting. Your words touched home – thanks for taking the time to share. In some strange way, this event positions Christmas in the light of the Paschal Mystery. God is in the midst of it all. Embracing us in Love!
    Love, Shauna

    1. Dear Shauna, Yes, even amid the Christmas joy we must not forget why this little baby came: to die for us out of love. How much I agree with your words: “God is in the midst of it all….embracing us in love.” Thanks for writing all the way from Rome, Shauna! Melannie

  4. Melannie,
    THANK YOU…How could it be…I think of that hymn…and of this massacre! How could it be? Today in Church I sat behind a family – a young mom holding a 2-3 month old babe, a dad holding his 3-4 year old son. And I brought to Eucharist those 20 moms and dads who no longer have this kind of communion with their little ones…We are one in love and prayer.

  5. I’ve seen many people try to answer the question “Why did this happen?”. Some insinuate that God is punitive or holds a grudge. That is the wrong message. This is the right one – the one about love. Thank you!

    Love, your niece, Melannie

    1. Dear Melannie, You’re so right. I really get angry when people turn God into a vengeful and cruel person. I’m sure God is weeping as we all are…. (How nice it is to hear from my dear niece and namesake, little Melannie. With your doctorate in ecology, you are loving our planet so we can pass it on to the next generation and the next and…Thank you for doing that!) Love, BIG Melannie

  6. Melanie, I often share your writings with my co-workers – hospital chaplains. This one will certainly be shared at our next dept meeting. I agree with your words, especially: love, love, love. We do that, as chaplains, by sitting with others who are suffering, sick, and dying, always being a presence of empathic listening. May there always be people helping those in Connecticut, especially when the rest of the world, in the months ahead, return to their normal lives and those in Connecticut continue living with their grief.

    1. Dear Teri, Thank you for sharing my blog with your co-workers. You hospital chaplains do a very holy work: being with people in their pain. It takes a special person to “always be a presence of empathic listening.” God bless you for all you do! Melannie

  7. Thank you for helping me understand that escaping is not the solution, but that loving is the only way I will get to see God’s glory.
    Thanks again

  8. This is a terrible tragedy that these innocent children and good teachers had their lives cut short. I do not know the answer except to see the heroic people behind the scenes and the lessions that have brought people together at this time to help and pray.

    I also often think of 3rd world countries or any country at war where children are used to fight battles or in the way and killed. I think of the many hungry children and adults who are struggling to keep alive. Yes, we have many good people who help in any way they can but it still doesn’t fill the needs of good people trying to keep their lives going on little or nothing. There will always be a why?

    Here we are another Christmas and the days filled with excitement over the coming holidays. We fill our lives with what to buy and what will we get and forget those who are just making out a living our surviving through the good deeds of other.

    Just my comment.

    1. Dear Cecelia,

      You are so right to remind us of all those countries ravaged by war–and where poor children are often caught in the crossfire. Yes, instead of worrying so much about what we’re going to get for Christmas, we should be more concerned with what we’re giving to others with our lives. Thank you for writing. Sr. Melannie

  9. I’m still in the angry stage, I’m slow…them I ponder, what do you expect from a country who condones?, allows? even encourages the senseless killing of millions of innocent babies, which they are. And worse yet, this same country is about to force me to pay for this atrocity, which sickens me. I join you in mourning for Newtown, especially the children’s parents and teachers but the whole town. May God bless them as they struggle and emerge stronger. May God bless us all.

  10. Sr. Melannie,
    I came upon your blog today from the “Living Faith” Daily Devotions. I am so glad you wrote about love after these days of sorrow. Looking ahead while even still in sorrow is the beauty. In our sorrow we can take a small glimpse ahead with love. Thanks for contributions in “Living Faith” and I am so glad to have found your blog and look forward to reading more entries. During this holiday season our family (Husband and two children and I) are moving to Louisianna from Arkansas for a new Job for my husband and its been stressful. However I am reminded daily to not forget what this season of our lives is about, love and Jesus our savior. Thanks again for you compassionate words.
    -Amanda Burrow

    1. Dear Amanda, Welcome to my blog! It’s good to have you as a reader. I will keep you and your family in prayer as you experience the major stress of relocation. And thank you for reminding us again that this season is about “love and Jesus our savior.” Amen to that! Sr. Melannie

  11. I couldn’t help but call to mind the slaughter of the innocents by Herod’s henchmen in Matthew’s Gospel. Evil could not extinguish the light then any more than it can today. It gratifies me to connect with so many who magnify the light in our world. The darkness will never grasp or overcome the light that we are privileged to bring to birth by our love. I am grateful for the deep sadness and grief I feel. It is the gift of empathy that drives me to prayer and loving kindness.

    1. Dear Laura, I really appreciated your words: Evil cannot extinguish the light. Thank you too for reminding us that deep sadness and grief can be gifts if they move us to prayer and loving kindness. Melannie

  12. Melanie
    Thank you for your reflection. I saw on facebook on Friday this quote: from a student – “Dear God, why did you let this happen in school? Dear Student, because I’m not allowed in schools.”

    I think this says it all.


  13. Sr. Melannie: I subscribe to Living Faith and was directed to your blog from your devotion for today. I too was struck by the incongruity of a president and nation so engulfed in grief when the same president and nation condones the slaughter of thousands of innocents every day in abortion clinics across America. And yet it is only fitting to mourn the innocents of the Newport massacre. I too ask the question: what was God doing while the shooting was happening? But how can we ask for the protection of God in our classrooms when we have banished Him from our schools? And how can we hope to stop the senseless slaughter when we make automatic weapons more easily obtainable than fireworks? I don’t have any of the answers I’m afraid, but I wonder if the problem isn’t more of what we have/have not done rather than what God does/doesn’t do….

    1. Dear David, Thank you for writing. I agree that we humans are painfully “illogical” at times….and We have to ask ourselves some serious questions because of this terrible tragedy. Thanks again. Melannie

  14. Melanie, I just came from lunch where most of the conversation was about the terrible shooting. But your last words, love, love, love is truly the right answer. Last week I saw the documentary “I Am”. I cannot stop thinking and pondering this awesome film of about 70 minutes. The question that both began and ended the film was “What’s Wrong With the World?” At the end was the the question. The answer was “I Am.” The final word on the screen in very large letters was “LOVE!” I highly recommend everyone in the United States first to view it, then begin to
    put into action the truths so magnificently featured. You can find it as I did aftewards by googling “I Am.”

  15. Thank you for your words of wisdom. As a retired kindergarten teacher of 35 years, I can tell you I can’t imagine how horrific this nightmare was for all involved. Your message of love is the only thing that makes any sense. Our good and provident God will somehow bring peace to all who suffer this loss.

  16. Hi, Melannie:
    Well, getting my thoughts together on the murders of 28 women and children for no reason has been tough. Very difficult to imagine being able to pull the trigger, fire, and kill your mom, then get in a car and drive to a school and continue pulling the trigger until you finally put the gun to your own head and die. What sense of despair, or, how deep the anger, or, how detached or isolated can a person be, or how little regard for a human life can a person have? Unfortunately, one more question needs to be asked: Has this person ever been taught compassion? or has this person ever been shown what it means to love another? At this point in my life, I believe loving others is losing miserably to the freedom of individual rights. We have lost sight of knowing that in loving others we are inherently free, our spirit soars. And yet, we clutch and cling to our guns for the sake of personal rights…safety… fear…freedom. Do you think, after all these tragedies, we have learned anything? Are we willing to change? I’m not as sure as I once was… haven’t given up hope, but , not quite as sure.

    1. Dear Diana, I certainly share your anguish….And your two last questions are the ones we each must answer: Have we learned anything? And are we willing to change? Don’t give up hope, Diana. (I know you haven’t.) That’s what this Advent season is all about. Hoping despite evidence to the contrary at times. Thanks for writing. Melannie

  17. Dear Melannie,
    You know me well enough to know I am rarely “speechless”.
    But these days TEARS replace WORDS. May we all be open to
    GOD’S HEALING in our lives, and may we be a HEALING PRESENCE
    to all who cross our paths.
    Thanks and God bless you for your inspiration. Love and Prayers
    Maggie Moore,SSJ

    1. Yes, Maggie, these days tears do replace words. Some things are just too deep for words….And I say “Amen” to your words about all of us trying to be a healing presence to others….Thank you….Melannie

  18. Just discovered your blog through Living Faith today. Thanks for sharing your thought about the children who were murdered last Friday. I was giving a college exam to my teacher candidates today and we talked about the sadness of the tragedy before the exam. One person just cried for two hours straight over the weekend.

    1. Dear Kathleen, Welcome to my blog! It’s good to have you! You are not only a teacher; you are a teacher of teachers. What a special calling you have. My thoughts and prayers are with you and in your students. Sr. Melannie

  19. Dear Sister Melannie,
    I was so relievd to find your blog on such a despairing day…
    I shared the love with my family in the car on our way to cut our Christmas tree. I was in need of your Spiritual Glasses– to find the threads of love woven into the tapestry of suffering. They WERE there! Those loving ones… Loving and loving without expectation. Breathtaking insight.
    I found you through my Living Faith reader 🙂 I am hooked!

    1. Dear Karleena, I’m so glad you found my blog in “Living Faith.” I’m happy to have you with us! May you continue to do your “heroic task” of raising your children. I admire all parents! Sr. Melannie

  20. Regarding the Newtown Massacre:

    Dear Sr. Melanie,

    David Cavilla left you a comment on December 17th regarding the slaughter at Newtown in which he acknowledged the hypocrisy and blindness of mourning the murder of 20 children at their school while accepting and even promoting the killing of thousands of pre-born children every single day in America. I say to you honestly that your response to David’s comment left me bewildered. Your vague reference to how people can sometimes be illogical did not directly address the unavoidable link between the children destroyed in the shooting and the children destroyed every day through abortion. Could you please speak directly to this issue so that I may know if the “love, love, love” you urge extends to our pre-born brothers and sisters?

    Your brother in Christ,

    (Toronto, Canada)

  21. Hi Sister, learned today from Living Faith about your blog. I have attended several retreats you have given in Pa. Wernersville and Columbia to be specific and was inspired by you. Now I can have your words of inspiration everyday to get me on the right track.
    thanks for being you.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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