The shock of that night is indescribable. A 24-year-old man, with no prior criminal history, walks into a crowded movie theater and sprays bullets all over the place. Before he is done, 12 people lay dead and another 58 are wounded.
How do we comprehend the horror?
How can we deal with the grief?
What can we learn?
We first turn to the inspired writings of St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri. Alphonsus lived in the 18th century and is recognized as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. One of his major themes is that nothing happens to us in this life that God does not permit to happen.
He states that we must conform our will to the will of God. As he articulates in his famous treatise, “Conformity to God’s Will,”
“The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God’s will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God. St. John of Avila used to say: “One ‘Blessed be God’ in times of adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts of gratitude in times of prosperity.”
It is not that God wishes evil to happen. The shooter was NOT doing God’s will. But, He has given us all free will and, therefore, people can choose to do evil that is against the will of God. When people choose to do evil, God does allow that evil to be inflicted on specific people He has chosen.
In looking at the response we should have in this time of severe sorrow, Alphonsus recalls from the Book of Job:
“When the messenger came to announce to Job that the Sabeans had plundered his goods and slain his children, he said: 'The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away.' He did not say: 'The Lord hath given me my children and my possessions, and the Sabeans have taken them away.' He realized that adversity had come upon him by the will of God. Therefore he added: 'As it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' We must not therefore consider the afflictions that come upon us as happening by chance or solely from the malice of men; we should be convinced that what happens, happens by the will of God.
The second lesson we need to take from the Aurora tragedy is that we have a crisis in America. Our crisis is the total disregard for the lives of human beings. Whatever else is said about the shooter in Aurora, it is clear he had no compassion for his fellow man.
While the professionals will ultimately determine the mental state of this particular individual, we all must realize that we contributed to the problem.
Americans today do not respect human life. We allow the wholesale killing of human beings in the womb and barely raise a whimper. When the sick or elderly are starved to death in hospitals, we call that “compassion.”
While those who are directly affected by this tragedy struggle to conform to the will of God, the rest of us need to work extremely hard to restore respect for the life of every human being – from creation to natural death – to this great nation. It is the only way for society to move forward.
Jim Sedlak is vice president of American Life League and a lifelong Catholic. His articles have appeared in numerous online and print media. He has given pro-life presentations on four continents and appeared on numerous radio and TV networks including ABC, FOX, HBO, MTV, and EWTN.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.