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33 Days to Merciful Love

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Amidst Mayhem, Mercy

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By Chris Sparks (Jun 13, 2016)
It never gets any easier.

You go to bed at night, thinking all is calm. And you wake up to news of another mass shooting, another calamity for a bunch of people who had no expectation they'd soon be victims or survivors of a terrorist attack.

The mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday, June 12, was even worse than usual — according to many reports, the worst mass shooting in United States history.

The statement from the Vatican responding to the tragedy reads in part, "The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion."

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, responded, writing, "Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person."

There's always a certain feeling of helplessness that sets in when we are confronted with this sort of meaningless attack. Yes, the shooter reportedly professed allegiance to ISIS. Yes, that indicates a certain ideology at work, or that the shooter wanted us to believe that a certain ideology was at work. But this was still a meaningless act of violence. There is a deep nihilism, a deep despair operating in this sort of attack on innocent civilians, on nightclubs and theaters, on entertainment venues and in the middle of cities. This was not an attack by an enemy against the military might of the United States, but rather a coward's attack, a weak bully's attack against the unsuspecting, the defenseless, against innocent bystanders.

We wrote about the Paris attacks at the time they occurred with a somewhat similar set of attackers, possibly a similar set of motives, and a markedly similar set of targets. Orlando is in some ways Paris all over again — the attacker targeted the nightlife of Orlando, one of the great entertainment capitals of the world. The victims were unarmed, unsuspecting civilians. The attacker professed allegiance to ISIS and all that they espouse.

At the time of the Paris attacks, we outlined a campaign of response to this sort of tragedy, a campaign still relevant today.

In short: Pray for the victims, especially the Rosary and the Chaplet. Offer Communions, Masses, and sacrifices for the repose of their souls, as well as the soul of the attacker and for his family, who face difficult days ahead as a result of his actions.

Yes, offer up reparation for the evil actions of the attacker, and pray for him. Saint Faustina recorded in her Diary:

During Holy Mass, I saw Jesus stretched out on the Cross, and He said to me, "My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you." I answered, "O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me." Jesus answered, "It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well." (1628)

As Christians, we are bound to imitate our Lord: In all things, mercy. So we should pray for both victims and victimizer, for Orlando and the conversion of ISIS, for an end to this sort of terrible tragedy and for healing of the minds and hearts of those tempted to perpetrate them.

And let us redouble our commitment to become light to the nations, salt of the earth, a people set apart by our love. Let us pursue our own sanctification so that by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, we may renew the face of the earth, driving out the powers and principalities of this present darkness. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, brethren, but with the enemy that does not know mercy, save as his greatest foe.

Mercy is the limit on evil. Let us live mercy in this Jubilee Year, and so help prevent other Orlandos, other Paris attacks, other Auroras and Columbines and endless, senseless, meaningless tragedies from happening again.

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