On Monday, October 9, at a prayer vigil sponsored by the Cranford Clergy Council, Msgr. Timothy Shugrue spoke these words:
In the name of the parishioners of St. Michael’s Church, I echo the words of welcome spoken by Commissioner O’Connor and Pastor Rice. My reflections this afternoon are my own thoughts as an individual and as pastor of this congregation: they should not necessarily be taken as a statement on behalf of the Cranford Clergy Council.
Again, in a numbingly familiar ritual, we gather as a community in shock before an unimaginable scene of violence. We know once more the pain of having to mourn innocent lives lost through an act of wanton brutality - mass murder, random killing without any explanation, targeting no one out of a particular grievance, but indiscriminately victimizing people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - having chosen to gather for an evening’s entertainment, they unwittingly put themselves in the crosshairs of a madman’s arsenal of weapons. The senselessness of the violence adds to our pain and sharpens our frustration - how do we protect ourselves from such misguided individuals? We stand in sympathy with the hundreds wounded, and in solidarity with all the survivors and with the entire community of metropolitan Las Vegas, a city known for glitz and games but now shadowed by the realization of its vulnerability to people and circumstances pretty much beyond its control. As too often in recent years, we mourn in silence, stunned by the evidence of such disregard for the human lives lost in that desert playground.
Grief mixes with anger over the impotence of our society to deal more intelligently with the insane politics of poorly regulated access to guns and other weapons capable of wreaking the havoc of mass murder on unsuspecting innocents. Our pain arises from our vulnerability to those whose rigid stance on the availability of guns - truly a perversion of the principle of supply and demand - imposes on our culture a schizophrenic character: we loudly lament the deaths and injuries, but we seem incapable of mustering the will to regulate more sensibly the ability of the unstable to amass an array of arms like that which filled Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas hotel room. We know we can’t hope to control every sick individual’s unpredictability - but surely we can voice our outrage over being forced to think about the unthinkable, every day and in every place - in schools, in churches, in shopping malls, in theaters, in social clubs, at sporting and political events and now at outdoor concert venues.
We turn, in our shared experience of sadness and incomprehension, to a God Whom we name in different ways, but in Whose love we take refuge, Who sees all of us as His children, and we commend to His eternal care the lives lost to death and those shattered by injury and grief. We ask for healing in our society as we ponder why, among all the freedoms we cherish, the one we really seem to regard as inviolable is the one that makes potential victims of us all - and not at the hands of external enemies. And, since we seem helpless to stop the proliferation of weapons, we pray for guidance in trying to recognize and cope more effectively with the well-springs of alienation, isolation and dysfunction that, in far too many of us, lead to self-destructive behavior and murderous violence. May our loving God hear our prayers. Amen.