Sunday night, after Mass, I received an email message from a few friends forwarding the news wire's coverage of Jane Richard's message posted on the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TeamMR8, dedicated to her brother Martin's foundation.
"To Paris. With love, from Jane.
There is a simple picture found on the foundation's website; it shows Jane and her big brother Henry viewing the south wall of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C. We see them gazing at the iconic words of Dr. King, from his Christmas homily in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967: "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."
After learning of the Paris attacks, I immediately was drawn into all of the pain and suffering that took place here in Boston in the moments, hours, weeks that followed the Marathon Bombing on April 15, 2013. I thought of the Richard family and the too many victims and survivors and their families who lost so much life and innocence through the hatred of a few. I thought of the first responders, and all those who run into harm's way every day, as I watched the police and military in Paris. The images of the first responders seeking to protect and offer aid for those hurt, standing guard at the multiple sites of terror and knowing that they give of themselves quickly and tirelessly as peacemakers, remain an inspiration.
I was reminded of the many calls, notes, drawings, prayers and acts of kindness that were sent from Greater Boston and around the world, especially those from children and teens who offered help, comfort, a card or a prayer. Thousands of notes arrived at St. Ann Parish, the Boston Police Headquarters, the One-Fund offices and the final turn towards the finish line became an instant memorial. These messages of solidarity and peace were from Bostonians, neighbors, visitors, and arrived from every continent. The world moved itself focusing on the site of devastation and in solemnity came to pray and offer sympathy and support. All these people became one in their desire for an end to hatred, division and violence, echoing Martin's iconic proclamation, longing for peace, innocence and good will.
All of those hurt here in our own city of Boston, and all of those who suffer and die that we read about -- or don't even hear about -- each day, in Paris, Kenya, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and so many other places, are uniquely affected by every horrible act of violence and terror that is repeated all too often. The world has not yet embraced Martin's words or their Gospel origins. Speaking earlier this year about his visit with the Coptic pope and the violence in the Middle East, Pope Francis said, "Today more than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us on the path toward peace and reconciliation." We are also united in a spirit of humanity that wants this peace and reconciling healing to be accomplished.
I asked the children of both of our parishes here in Weymouth and Braintree to commit themselves to be instruments of peace and to sit down this weekend and pray for these victims and the many that we never hear about. I asked them to make a card, like the many that were sent to the Richard Family and the others families who lost innocence, life and limb, two and a half years ago in Boston. I asked them to ask their friends to do the same. Consider having your parish youth send cards, notes, prayers and good will wishes to the French consulate in Boston or have your parish mail it to the cathedral in Paris.
Our little ones lead us and help us to not have hardened hearts, but rather to be united as the human family. I am also asking as a sign of our hunger for peace and the unity that we have as the human family and a people united in our love of the Lord Jesus, to organize our young people from every parish and community representing this archdiocese and all the churches, synagogues, mosques and places where people of strong faith or good will gather, to do the same. Namely to respond to each act of hatred with love, peace, and kindness. Imagine these small acts of kindness, mercy and love, united by a desire for peace, working together as a response to the terror enacted, and how that changes our hearts and forms our young ones to be active ambassadors of peace. A child who had so much taken away responds with love, may we learn to do the same. "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." (Mt 18:3-5)
Thank you Jane for still inspiring us all # No more hurting people, Peace.
Your friend seeking peace, Father Sean.
FATHER SEAN CONNOR, PASTOR OF THE COLLABORATIVE OF SACRED HEART IN WEYMOUTH AND SAINT THOMAS MORE IN BRAINTREE, IS A FAMILY FRIEND AND FORMER PASTOR OF THE RICHARD FAMILY.