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Gaudete Sunday?

The slaughter of the innocents came before Christmas this year. The priest in my sisters parish noted the paradox of celebrating Gaudete Sunday when the country is deep in grief and outrage. Twenty small votive candles were placed on the altar as a commemoration of the little ones. Dozens of children at this Mass of the age of the children killedall restless ants-in-the-pants energy, all curiositylooking here, looking there; touching Mom, touching Dad, touching sister, touching brother; Mom and Dad touching back, holding them close; a woman behind us weeping all through the Mass. Everywhere you looked, another reminder of what was taken from so many.What was done in your parish?

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After the homily, which leveraged off the Friday headline in the San Francisco Chronicle ("Indescribable!"), incense was lighted and the pastor intoned slowly and solemnly each of the names and ages of those who died (curiously, sans the names of the the shooter and his mother). After each name he rang a beautiful sounding brass bowl with a very small wooden mallet. After the sound died, the next name and age was read and the ringing was repeated. There was total silence while this happened.It was simple and quite poignant.

The very first intention in the prayer of the faithful was for the children killed.Otherwise, nothing. Lots of 10 years old boy and girl scouts, doing the readings at Mass and selling cookies after Mass. The slightly tottering priest preached on joy and reminisced being a eucharistic crusader "more than 80 years ago".But as it was in Europe, the lack of connection is understandable.

We had a substitute priest in my parish here in Connecticut. (Unfortunately, our pastor is hospitalized.) The celebrant noted the seeming contradiction of celebrating Gaudete Sunday in the atmosphere of tragedy that took place so close to where our parish is located, but I thought the priest did a fine job tying together today's readings with the events that took place but 48 hours ago. Certainly, people seemed more subdued during and after Mass, some of that no doubt because the Mass was the children's Mass, and their presence and customary participation in the Mass (including singing a song just before the Offertory) added a poignancy that was missing before the events in Newtown.

Absolutely nothing, except a brief mention in the prayers of the people.

I traveled thirty some miles yesterday to attend an ordination. At the beginning of the Mass, it was dedicated to the repose of those slaughtered in Connecticut. It was a day of sorrow and joy. Exhausted this morning, I remain at home to get strength for my afternoon visit to the Nursing home.

My wife and I went to the local Franciscan retreat house for Mass this morning. The priest's homilies are almost always excellent. Today was no exception. What William Collier said of the service at his parish is very much what could be said of the Mass we participated in this morning.

The children and adults killed in Sandy Creek were spoken of in the opening of our 6 pm Mass, in the homily, and in the prayers of the people. There may have been two family members of those murdered in the congregation. Not certain because I had never seen them before, but they were mourners for sure.Not to be political....the president's "homily" tonight at the memorial service was tender and compassionate, but what can anyone say; he did his best, the preacher-in-chief.

http://stjames-cathedral.org/Main.htmAt St James Cathedral in Seattle, already on Friday evening the Taize service was dedicated to the victims, and the following prayer appeared on the website.God of peace,you are peace itself;a divided heart cannot find you,a violent mind cannot welcome you. Hear us as we pray for the victims,so many of them young children, of the terrible shootings in Connecticut.Grant eternal life to the dead,healing to the wounded,and comfort to grieving families. May the grief and shock we experienceunite us in our commitmentto rid our communities of the violencethat echoes in our streetsand haunts our imaginations. We ask this through the One who is our Prince of Peace:Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

We attended Sunday morning mass at one of the two local churches we attend. The visiting priest also spoke of the contradiction between the joy in the readings and the painful news about Newtown. But we were also told that at the Saturday Vigil mass the parents of one of the teachers killed asked those present to say a rosary for her after Mass, which they then did. Both parents are, I understand, Eucharistic ministers in the parish.

No mention was made of the event during the liturgy--not even in the Prayer of the Faithful. The homily was all about rejoicing. The priest (a Nigerian transplant) was jovial as ever. It was as if nothing had happened. Then after the announcements, Father asked us all to kneel down for a moment of silence, after which we prayed the Hail Mary.That was all.

Our pastor preached about it in his homily: that in the darkest places of our hearts is where the light and joy of Christ is needed the most. We also had a petition for the victims in our Prayers of the Faithful. It was certainly on people's minds: when we were lining up in the back of the church for the procession, the two readers talked about it with me, and some parishioners mentioned it in the back of the church after mass.Later that day, my wife and I attended the Christmas/holiday concert at our local public high school. The music director, who clearly is passionate about music and her students, and who joyfully fills these programs with religious-themed music, dedicated the last section of the program - O Holy Night and Silent Night - to the victims. It seemed appropriate to me, and I was grateful that she acknowledged what was on people's minds and in their hearts.

Our priest noted the tragedy and noted also, that the stockpile of guns the shooter apparently used was from a pile of weapons his parents had accumulated in preparation for a collapse of society - the 12/21/12 thing and that we should not to fall into such hysterical nonsense. He pointed out that it is because of faith that we can be happy. Otherwise, we prayed for everyone involved with an Our Father, three Hail Mays, and the Glory Be.

Here was the recessional at 6 PM Mass Sunday; it struck me as appropriate, and Christian, given Friday's event. My life flows on in endless song; Above earth's lamentation, I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn That hails a new creation; Thro' all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing; It finds an echo in my soul-- How can I keep from singing? What tho' my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Saviour liveth; What tho' the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth. No storm can shake my inmost calm While to that refuge clinging; Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing? I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it; And day by day this pathway smooths, Since first I learned to love it; The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, A fountain ever springing; All things are mine since I am his-- How can I keep from singing?

Interesting history of above hymn at Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Can_I_Keep_from_Singing%3F

As preacher, I naturally changed homily Friday night and was on that exact wavelength as I told the congregation that the liturgical calendar had been sadly truncated to the Feast of the Innocents. I read the Jeremiah passsage and said that we might invoke the "parent of another murdered son" and in our very liberal parish, I'm not sure all knew I meant the Virgin... I then rang a muted small bell 28 times -- to include, as mentioned, the mother and the shooter-- and invited first Hail Mary for all children's famillies and their classmates and teachrs, a send Hail Mary for all the responders and those helping to assist in so many ways - includiing media, and a third for all the victims of violence, for a change to our absurd gun policies, and for children who suffer throughout the world because of American made guns,,,Then I went back to the the fundamental "Why" question and attempted to address theodicy by an admitted change of subject from "Why is there evil and suffering" to "why is there goodness and generosity and sacrifice" - with local and national examples -- and a return to the notion of 'rejoice" at the Mystery made flesh along side overwhelming grief and unanswerable why's...

The celebrant at the Mass I went to started the Mass with a prayer for the dead in Connecticut and spoke at length about it in his homily; how it is hard to rejoice when there is such suffering, but that we can rejoice when we have Jesus. He had an additional sorrow: the governor of his province in Nigeria, the first Christian elected to that position since independence, and a fellow parishioner of his, was blown up the night before. He had survived several previous attempts on his life, but not the final time. There is a lot of suffering in the world.

Our pastor spoke about the shootings in the homily, tying the shooting to the "cross standing behind the manger". Nicely done. That evening, we had a long-planned Christmas concert and added a couple solos ("I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Longfellow/DeFord, not the classic hymn; and "Some Children See Him")."How Can I Keep From Singing" is a beautiful song - it is the last song we had at my mother's funeral Mass and was always one of her favorites.

I don't know if this wold have been the place to sing it, but I have been comnfoted and would find very appropriate "Precious Lord" or " It is Well with My Soul". The history of both of these is very moving.

Interesting how most either say "the priest" or use the passive voice, and only a few say "our" priest or pastor.

Claire: maybe the "our" connection has not been made in so many cases. 99% of "us" have no say in who is assigned as "the" pastor. Until and unless a connection is made, he will continue to be "the" and not "our," particularly in those US mini-dioceses called parishes with 2,000+ families and multiple weekend masses.

"Precious Lord" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as1rsZenwNc) is one of those hymns from my other church life of a few years back that never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. I have already put it into my funeral ceremony as the opening hymn.Thank God for the black churches.

I wonder whether American Catholic hymns are generaly nothing to brag about because most Americans are not descended from the English, and when most of our ancestors got here they had to drop their native (foreign) hymns and make up a great many new ones in English from scratch. So the reason most of us don't sing a lot is because we don't have classic English hymns available, as the English do and the Protestant Americans do. The latter have the English hymns winnowed out through centuries and preserved from the beginning by the American colonists.I wonder if the Germans, Italians, Spanish and French and other non-Americans have this same trouble in their native lands. I mean eople not singing much at Mass.

Jim: my point exactly. Is there a lack of connection?

Irene Baldwin, I was at the same mass as you. I'll look you up.

"Is there a lack of connection?"As the kids here like to say ..... totally! My parish is 400 hearty souls (people, not families or "pledging units.)" I would not worship in a community much larger than that.

--- make that 400 HARDY souls. But we are "hearty," too.

Claire: here is an example of what I mentioned:http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/17/3730572/area-churches-defy-t... is not a parish, it is a mass mill.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.