Prayer vigils offer solidarity after Boston attack

Cardinal Sean OMalley celebrates Mass at Domus Galilee during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land Credit Sean OHare CNA US Catholic News 4 9 13 Cardinal Sean O'Malley celebrates Mass at Domus Galilee during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. | Sean O'Hare/CNA.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, people of diverse faith backgrounds are uniting in prayer for the victims and offering support to all those affected.

"Even when our heart aches, we summon the strength that maybe we didn't even know we had, and we carry on; we finish the race," said U.S. President Barack Obama at an interfaith prayer service in Boston on April 18.

"Scripture tells us to run with endurance the race that is set before us," the president observed. "As we do, may God hold close those who've been taken from us too soon, may he comfort their families and may he continue to watch over these United States of America."

Obama joined numerous religious leaders in speaking at an interfaith prayer service at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross

On April 15, two bombs exploded shortly before 3:00 p.m. near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three individuals were killed in the explosions, and over 170 were injured. The FBI is investigating the attack and seeking those who are responsible.

Cardinal Séan O'Malley of Boston also offered a reflection at the service, urging those gathered that they must "overcome the culture of death by promoting a culture of life."

"Jesus gives us a new way to deal with offenses, by reconciliation," he said. "Jesus gives us a new way to deal with violence, by nonviolence."

Stressing that the crowd's "presence here is an act of solidarity with those who lost their lives or were injured in the explosions," the cardinal called on the faithful to see the tragedy as "a challenge and an opportunity for us to work together with a renewed spirit of determination and solidarity and with the firm conviction that love is stronger than death."

Other leaders and members of various faith groups attended the service, including representatives of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, First Church Cambridge, Old South Church and Trinity Church.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino also gave reflections at the service.

The Archdiocese of Boston is continuing to offer a variety of opportunities for Mass and prayer for all those affected by the bombing.

On April 16, a Mass for the victims of the attack was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Memorial and healing Masses, Eucharistic adoration and prayer services are scheduled throughout the archdiocese in the coming days.

Cardinal O'Malley was in the Holy Land at the time of the bombing. He offered Mass for all of those impacted by the tragedy before returning to Boston for the prayer service.

Members of other faiths, including the Episcopal Archdiocese of Massachusetts and various Jewish denominations, and are also hosting prayer services.

In addition, several colleges in Boston are holding vigils and Masses. Harvard University held three vigils on April 16 in honor of the victims, including one at Harvard Divinity School. Northeastern University and Tufts University also held prayer services and vigils.

Boston College, a Catholic university located on the marathon route, celebrated a "Mass of Healing and Hope" on April 16 for victims of the bombing, "including two graduate students, M.B.A. student Liza Cherney and joint J.D./M.B.A. student Brittany Loring." The Mass was celebrated by university president, Fr. William P. Leahy, SJ.

"We come with certain hurts and a sense of confusion: Why do these things happen? How can we carry on?" said Fr. Leahy in his homily, according to the Boston College Chronicle.

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"Christ proclaimed that 'I am the bread of life,' and those words have extra significance to us," he added. "We are seeking a level of consolation, food that will sustain us. The bread of life gives us energy, support and faith. Christ's words sustain us today, and in the future."

"We are called upon to represent faith, hope and healing for those who it need most," Fr. Leahy explained.

Others from around the country have joined in prayer to support victims of the attacks. Notre Dame University offered a Mass on April 18 for all those affected, and the Catholic Chaplaincy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., held a prayer vigil on the night of April 15.

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