A year ago tomorrow we published an editorial entitled “Prayer for life.” It concluded with a quote from Pope Francis: “When I was a boy, the teacher was teaching us history and told us what the Spartans did when a baby was born with deformities: they carried it up the mountain and cast it down, to maintain ‘the purity of the race.’ In the last century the entire world was scandalized over what the Nazis were doing to maintain the purity of the race. Today we do the same thing, but with white gloves.” We added, “We ask God to help us to turn our hearts away from rejecting human life, at any stage from conception until natural death. God hasn’t rejected us. We should not reject each other.”

This past weekend we saw how two young men decided to reject human life. In El Paso it has been established that the killer felt the need to keep the United States “pure” by killing Hispanics. The motive of the murderer in Dayton is not clear yet (given that he is dead, it might never be known), although the media reported on Tuesday that his ex-girlfriend said that he had gleefully shown her video taken by one of the recent assassins at a synagogue.

Saturday night the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, its president, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., the chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “This Saturday, less than week after the horrific instances of gun violence in California, yet another terrible, senseless and inhumane shooting took place, this time at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. Something remains fundamentally evil in our society when locations where people congregate to engage in the everyday activities of life can, without warning, become scenes of violence and contempt for human life. The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country. Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities. As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts.”

At the time of their statement, the alleged motive of the killer was not well known. 

Enmity against Hispanics and other people, just due to their racial or ethnic group, is rampant in our society. Even in our Church there have been many sad instances where people have been treated shabbily due to their not being of the dominant culture. After having been rejected by many of the Protestants who were the majority of this country when we first started arriving here in big numbers in the 19th century, instead of learning that lesson, we were inhospitable to our fellow Catholics. Only the devil can be happy to see how, rather than welcoming Christ in these new members of our parishes, we made them feel “second class.” Many of them have left us.

Conflicts amongst us go back all the way to the Acts of the Apostles (chapter six), when the Hebrew-speaking and Greek-speaking Christians were in conflict with each other (each thinking that the other “side” was getting better treatment). So, this is an “angle” that Satan often uses, making us think that life would be better “if everyone were like us.”

That is not the case. We are very different. And yet, somehow, we are called to transform this society and make it one in which all people are respected and loved. This does not mean “anything goes,” since even in a family home there needs to be rules, correction, chores, etc. 

Although “thoughts and prayers” has been maligned as “doing nothing,” we do need to begin with prayer and continue to depend upon prayer, so that God can guide us in the difficult work ahead to build a civilization of love. Prayer helps us to realize that we are not alone — God is walking with us through this dark valley (Ps 23). We need to check in with God repeatedly, asking for His guidance. We need to meditate upon how His followers, in the Old and New Testaments, dealt with crises in their communities. 

Among those thoughts and prayers, we can also look to what God wants in terms of purity. There is no such thing as a “pure American,” but God does want purity. 

St. John Paul II spoke about purity in a homily on June 12, 1999 in Poland. Among the “conditions we need to fulfill in order to encounter this God, to know Him and to be united with Him, one of these conditions is purity of heart. Having a pure heart means being a new person, restored to life in communion with God and with all creation by the redemptive love of Christ.”

A little later the pope said, “During their earthly life the pure of heart are capable of glimpsing in all creation what comes from God.” The killers in El Paso and Dayton could not see that in the people they massacred. They could not see the beauty of the image of God in the people they gunned down.

The Polish saint warned, “The culture of death wants to destroy purity of heart. One of its strategies is deliberately to create doubt about the virtue of chastity. A culture which in this way impairs or even destroys a correct relationship between individuals, is a culture of death, for man cannot live without true love.”

Why are you talking about chastity when you should be talking about legislation?! It is up to the laity, out in the world, to discern what would be the best policy approaches to deal with these crises. However, it has been found that some of these mass killers (with guns or trucks) identify as “incels,” short for “involuntary celibates.” They are angry that women do not find them attractive and so do not “get the sex” they feel they are “owed.” So, they go out and kill people. 

To this sad state of affairs (they think, due to lack of having affairs), St. John Paul said, “Proclaim before the world ‘the Good News’ of purity of heart, and by the example of your lives pass on the message of the civilization of love. Today the culture of death sets before you, among other things, so-called ‘free love.’ In this sort of disfigurement of love we reach the profanation of one of the most cherished and Sacred values, for promiscuity is neither love nor freedom. The purer families are, the healthier the nation will be. And we want to remain a nation worthy of its name and its Christian vocation.”

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