On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, here is an essay I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the event. This piece was originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.
It’s hard for me to take in the full horror of the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut. The culture of life can seem like a lost cause in the face of this atrocity. That’s “atrocity,” not “tragedy.” A tragedy is something that happens due to an element of mischance or mistake, devoid of intention.
Choice matters. The fact that we are able to make choices cannot be where the lesson ends. What Adam Lanza chose to do made a horrible and bloody difference. He wasn’t striking a blow for some philosophical “right to choose.” His “choice” was to kill people. I may never know his reasons, though I am sure some enterprising journalists are even now digging for clues.
I can barely fathom the grief and anger of the parents who survive their children. There’s more than enough suffering to go around: the first responders who found the children and their teachers dead and dying; the family of Adam Lanza; the surviving children who had to learn much too soon that evil is real. I pray for the consolation of every one of them. And I wonder how many parents of troubled children are thinking to themselves “there but for the grace of God …”
I have no lessons to share. I am simply venting some of my own shock. I don’t blame God. The news out of Sandy Hook School came from human free will at its worst.
And about that free will: one of the most challenging prayers in my faith tradition was written by Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century man of tremendously constructive energy and faith. I find myself praying it now. It’s called the Suscipe, and it’s sometimes known as “The Radical Prayer,” in the sense of getting to the root (radix) of a matter.
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.