Le Devoir, Canada
Massacre in Newtown:
Love Will Survive
By Jacques Gauthier
Translated By Louis Standish
18 December 2012
Edited by Gillian Palmer
Canada - Le Devoir - Original Article (French)
The horror of the familiar: A 20-year-old man forcefully enters an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and kills 26 people, 20 of which were children of six or seven years old, all hit with several bullets from a semi-automatic weapon. Just like some parents and grandparents, I thought right away of my children and my two granddaughters. What a tragedy! Such pain!
This tragedy made me think of another event that took place on Dec. 6, 1989 at Polytechnique Montréal. Some months prior, I had met one of the 14 victims, the smiling Anne St-Arneault of La Tuque, the sister of my African missionary friend, Serge.
Already 23 years, and we still remember. The commemorations continue, like this Night of Poetry held at La Tuque on Dec. 6 in memory of Annie. How do you forget the unforgettable? The trauma does not go away easily from the hearts of those close to the victims, the friends and family. This obligation of memory is vital; it doesn’t allow one to forget and pushes for actions like the Coalition for Gun Control.
In facing certain tragedies, one question spontaneously rolls off the lips: Why? Remember the earthquake that rocked Haiti in the beginning of 2010. We ceaselessly search for meaning in what we are experiencing. Catastrophes stop us because they deal with innocents like children. We look then within our hearts, which also have their reasons, always providing the impetus for generosity and solidarity. If we must talk about God, it’s in that giving and life impulse that we have to acknowledge.
On the very night of the Newtown tragedy, I was touched by seeing people come together in Catholic and Protestant churches to pray and engage in a moment. Admittedly, recent polls highlight over 92 percent of Americans who identify themselves as believers, with over 60 percent who pray daily. But outside of those statistics, humans need rituals in order to deal with mourning: flowers, candles, letters, prayers, silence, songs. Faith becomes a source of consolation and comfort. When we lose a lot, what often remains is the light brightened by love.
Incarnation of Christ
We have the right to fight against evil and not relent until justice triumphs, like Albert Camus highlighted so well in stating these words to believers at a conference: “Like you, I share in the same horror of evil. But I do not share your hope, and I will continue to fight against this universe where children suffer and die.”
My faith in the Incarnation of Christ tells me that the only place where God makes sense is when man lives and dies. He does not stay above, but down here with the community of Newtown that mourns its children who have left far too soon. Claudel writes that God does not come to wipe away suffering nor explain it, but to fill it with his presence in Christ.
Life is a fragile gift that can be torn apart anytime, even in the days before Christmas. We would certainly want to welcome joy and flee hardship. After tragedies like Polytechnique and Newtown, we continually have to relearn how to live. Those who died from the bullets were probably happy down here. But by dying, it says to us that this happiness does not continue elsewhere. For me, it continues that only God is love. And love doesn’t die; it survives, like these words on a poster in front of a boutique in Newtown: “Love will allow us to leave early.”
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