By Msgr. Steven Ferrari
IN HER 1971 collection of poetry entitled “A Grain of Mustard Seed,” the late poet, novelist and journal-writer May Sarton wrote:
“We’ll to the woods no more
With live ammunition
To murder our own children…
How many times in pain
We were given a choice –
‘Sick of the violence’
(Oh passionate human voice!) –
But buried it again….
Still we invoke the gun,
Still make a choice for murder,
Bury the dead again.”
Startled by her writing these lines nearly 50 years ago, I am grieved to think that we still today bear the heavy burden of the hundreds of young lives taken every year in gun violence.
We grieve and mourn the senseless, nay, the insane murders of so many children, teenagers and future of our country. And yet our nation’s laws “protect” those who bear arms, not those without them.
I was speaking with my older brother, Neil, recently. We are very close in age – just a year and four days apart. For many years, he has lived and worked in the Chicago, Ill., area with his wife and family. Neil and I were reflecting on our teenage years growing up in Brooklyn. It was a much more innocent time. Dad was a WWII veteran and member of the American Legion Post near our home. Neil and I were officers in the Sons of the American Legion.
At one point in our teenage years, Dad introduced us to target shooting with a
single barrel rifle in Downtown Brooklyn’s Armory on Bedford Avenue. We both became, at about ages 16 and 15, members of the Junior NRA. (I shudder now to even admit this. But I innocently knew nothing then about its full implications.) And we would never have even dreamed of shooting another human being. Eventually, Dad bought Neil a rifle of his own to take upstate for target practice, aiming at tin cans and such. He never went deer or game hunting. I never wanted a gun of my own as it held no real interest for me.
Speaking with my brother, I was informed that he recently gave the rifle, with its original case and supplies, to the local Illinois police. He hadn’t used it in over 40 years, didn’t want it in the house and wouldn’t dream of offering it to his two married-with-children sons.
I now dread picking up the newspaper or listening to the radio news to learn of the latest mass school shooting. I began last year posting newspaper photos and names of all those killed in American mass shootings in the vestibule of St. Teresa Church, under a sign that reads “Pray for Them.” The wall is quickly filling up.
As important as they are, prayers are not enough. Action must be taken. Common sense must prevail. The right to life of every individual must reign. Schools used to be among the safest places to be. Now we are afraid to allow our children to go to class. And giving teachers guns!?! In many ways I am glad that as a priest, I have no children or grandchildren to worry about their constant safety and protection.
Jesus commanded His right-hand man to “put away the sword.” When will we learn? What does it take for lawmakers to see the light? Or must we, as May Sarton wrote, just “bury the dead again” and again and again?
Msgr. Ferrari is the pastor of St. Teresa’s parish in Woodside.