This morning my mom and I went to the early mass at St. Hedwigs Church, where Will and I were married six years ago. Whenever I'm back in Milwaukee for a visit, I love to attend mass at this special church, even though there are Catholic Churches that are closer to my parents' house. Not only do I have the most beautiful memories of my wedding day from this particular church, but I absolutely love the priest at St. Hedwigs. Father Tim is an amazing, inspirational, kind-hearted priest who has that rare gift of being able to speak to every person in the congregation, whether its a feisty 4-year old boy or a sweet 80-year old lady. I can honestly say I've never heard a bad, or even mediocre, homily from him. However, in light of the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, I knew Fr. Tim had his work cut out for him today.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete (Joyful) Sunday. It's when the period of penance makes way for the joyful celebration of Christ's birth. As Fr. Tim put it this morning, "it doesn't feel right expressing our joy when so many are in such terrible pain." He's absolutely right. As beautiful and happy as the Christmas season is, I can't imagine what those poor families are going through. When I first heard the news about the shooting, all I wanted to do was scoop Tony up, shower him with hugs and kisses, and tell him over and over how much I love him. I (tearfully) called Will back in Louisiana and made him promise to tell Tony that Mama loves him. I thanked God over and over that my little boy is safe and sound. I know, without a doubt, that my life would be over if anything happened to my child. The grief that those poor families are experiencing...it's unthinkable.
All of this was going through my mind this morning during the homily. How can we continue to anticipate the beauty and joy of Christmas, knowing that as early as tomorrow the funerals will begin for the 27 people who were killed? How can we leave milk and cookies for Santa knowing that all of these poor parents will probably dread the holiday season for the rest of their lives? As Fr. Tim said today, because we have to.
Because it's true that an act of terror, an act of violence can destroy a nation, it's true that an act of goodness can rebuild it. The thousands of volunteers who have stepped up to offer support for the grieving families. The millions across the world who are praying for them. The people who do good in small ways everyday to better the lives of those around them. That is joy, that is goodness, and that is hope. It has always been a goal of mine to be a better person each day (I don't always succeed), to make a difference in someone else's life (no matter how small), and to teach my children kindness , compassion, and courage to do the right thing. I hope that Will and I can show our children that while there is a great deal of pain, sadness and suffering in our world, there is also an abundance of beauty, light and love.
I would like to ask anyone who reads this to perform an act of charity, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, over the next few weeks. Whether it's sponsoring a family in need for Christmas, volunteering at a homeless shelter, praying for the victims, their families and Adam Lanza, or donating old clothes/toys/whatever to Goodwill. Be the change you wish to see in the world.