May 25, 2022 – Eight hundred years and his shining witness has scarcely dimmed. St. Francis’ example teaches us yet—his journey from violence to nonviolence, wealth to poverty, pride to humility, power to powerlessness, selfishness to service, indifference to love, cruelty to compassion, killing enemies to loving them. John Dear, an American Catholic priest and peace activist, in the article “St. Francis and the way of nonviolence,” reminds us that “if the whole world, especially First World nations, practiced the Franciscan ethic of social justice and nonviolence, hunger and warfare would end.” Can we envision a world as Francis did? At this time in history, we must address gun violence for what it is—a leading cause of premature death in our county.
The debate over gun control in the United States has waxed and waned over the years, stirred by a series of mass shootings by gunmen in civilian settings. We need only to remember such places as Newtown, Connecticut, where, in 2012, 20 schoolchildren lost their lives to guns and now the recent shooting at Robb Elementary. Yet, legislation that would have banned semiautomatic assault weapons was defeated in the Senate despite extensive public support.
America has a problem with gun violence! Our movie theaters, places of worships, schools, and homes are not safe. And it results in more than 32,000 fatalities every year. There is an epidemic that directly threatens our human right to be safe and secure, and to live without fear.
Fueling this epidemic, laws on guns in the United States are inconsistent and weak—and federal, state, and local governments are not meeting their obligation under international law to protect people’s safety. As Sisters of St. Francis and our companions, we will continue to take the necessary risks to call for stricter gun laws. As of today, there are no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, or large ammunition purchases. There was a federal prohibition on these weapons between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed these restrictions to expire under the pressure of the NRA. And so just in the past two weeks we mourn the deaths of 10 older adults in Buffalo, New York, and 19 young children and two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
We are holding the families of these victims in our deepest prayers. We are also praying for the Buffalo and Texas communities and the whole nation. We must find an end to this senseless violence and we will continue to work toward ending gun violence today and every day until real change happens. We all must act. “Lord, let us be instruments of your peace.”
Please join us in prayer. Consider using this prayer service with your local community or with your family.