Sharing some of his emotions — shock, sadness, a need for prayer — Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre asked people to give themselves permission to be present to their emotions in the wake of the Easter Monday shooting in downtown Louisville.
“However you feel, whatever’s going on within you, be there,” he said during noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption April 13. “And let’s start there together.”
Five people were killed and eight were injured at the Old National Bank on Main Street the morning of April 10. The gunman, an employee of the bank, died at the scene, as well.
During the Mass celebrated for the shooting victims, Archbishop Fabre addressed the grief, confusion and pain people in the community are feeling. And he offered four suggestions for those asking, What now?”
Comparing people’s emotions to those of the disciples after Jesus’ death, he noted that the risen Lord comforted them.
“Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He conquered death. He conquered sin. The light has pierced the darkness. … He stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ ” the archbishop said.
“Here’s the point: The risen Lord sought out his disciples to bring them a message of peace within their confusion and pain. Jesus sought them out.”
In a time of confusion, grief, pain and great emotion, Jesus met the disciples where they were.
Now, he said, “Jesus is seeking you and me right where we are with our emotions. When he finds us, my brothers and sisters, he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”
That’s the kind of God Archbishop Fabre said he needs right now.
“I need a God who is not afraid of my emotions or my questions or where I find myself right now. I need a God who is going to pursue me, seek me out, come to find me. I need a God who, when I know he finds me, says to me, ‘Peace be with you.’ I need a God who is not afraid of his own wounds or my wounds or our wounds together. I need a God whose hand is victorious over suffering and death.”
Though the wounds left on the community “will always be with us,” Archbishop Fabre said he hopes they’re “glorified because they lead us to a greater love and respect for one another.”
And for those asking, “What now?” the archbishop has four suggestions:
— First, be where you are.
— Second, trust and know that God is seeking you out with your questions, pain and hurt.
— Third, remember that the risen Lord is with you no matter what.
— Fourth, invite the Lord into your heart.
“He appeared to the disciples in the upper room even though the door was locked,” the archbishop said. “Open the door to your heart. Trust that he will enter with similar words —
‘Peace be with you.’ ”
In addition to the Mass at the Cathedral, Archbishop Fabre spoke a day earlier during a community-wide vigil at the Muhammad Ali Center on North Sixth Street, about a mile from the site of Easter Monday’s mass shooting.
The vigil, which drew hundreds to the center’s outdoor plaza, remembered the five killed in the mass shooting as well as a 24-year-old man who was shot and killed in a separate shooting in front of Jefferson Community and Technical College the same day.
Archbishop Fabre said that the “language of grief and suffering is screaming right now” in the lives of those who lost loved ones and in the city. “It’s a language that comes to us with a lie that there is no hope and that we face all of this alone.”
He urged his listeners to embrace “the language of hope and promise; borne of that is the language that drives us to learn lessons and to make differences and to love as we are called to love,” the archbishop said.
He encouraged the large gathering to “just hold on, and hold on together until the language of hope is borne amongst us and that language speaks loudly in our lives, in our communities and in our hearts.”
Among the hundreds of grieving people at the vigil were members of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Ursuline Sister Janet Marie Peterworth said Monday’s shootings left her shocked.
She noted that the Ursuline Sisters participated in a two-day gun violence workshop at the Muhammad Ali Center at the end of March.
“It was a good gathering” of youth, community leaders and small nonprofits discussing ways to end gun violence. Returning to the center days later for a mass shooting vigil feels incomprehensible, she said.
Sister Peterworth said she’s felt “confusion and terrible sorrow” this week. Some of that sorrow, she added, was for the family of the mass shooter. “I go back and forth between extreme sorrow and extreme anger.”
She recently wrote a reflection about the women standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross. The reflection began with the words, “It was not supposed to happen this way.”
Those are the same words echoing in her mind following the violence of Easter Monday, she said: “It was not supposed to happen this way.”
“I need a God who is not afraid of my emotions or my questions or where I find myself right now. I need a God who is going to pursue me, seek me out, come to find me. I need a God who, when I know he finds me, says to me, ‘Peace be with you.’ I need a God who is not afraid of his own wounds or my wounds or our wounds together. I need a God whose hand is victorious over suffering and death.”Archbishop Shelton