My friend Fr. Gregory West of Charleston, South Carolina sent me the above snapshot, taken last week. The caption reads:
Gregory West leads a prayer in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting killed nine people.
Fr. West adds:
This was snapped by a Getty Images photographer last Monday as I was headed off to a week long Catholic camp with eight of our middle schoolers. The kids prayed amazingly in their spontaneity. The compassion, grace and brotherhood of my home is wonderfully tangible now, more so than ever. Paraphrasing President Obama’s line from his eulogy for Senator and Reverend Clementa Pinckney on Friday, “That young man did not know that God was going to use him to do good.” I said this morning that what we are experiencing in Charleston is not really extraordinary or unique. Rather, it is what “normal” is supposed to be like. Maybe this form of “Doin’ the Charleston” will spread to communities everywhere.
A local columnist, Brian Hicks, put it beautifully:
Charleston is going to be just fine, thank you. We will forever mourn our loss, but we won’t let that mar a great place. We may squabble, we may need to work on race relations. But we don’t need to destroy things, knock down monuments or change street names. We only need to show what people of goodwill can do when they try. We support one another, and will do so even more in the future. We learned long ago that the first step to having someone respect your history is to respect theirs. That was already happening here before Emanuel, to a much larger degree than anyone from outside this state understood. Here’s an example of Charleston strength: the acceptance and kindness that this killer received from the good people of Mother Emanuel almost convinced him to abandon his evil plan. Hate won that battle, but that’s the only victory it gets here. This is part of all our history now, and the way we deal with it will not only help us survive, it will make us stronger. That is the lesson people around the world need to take from Charleston, a lesson we learned from the victims of a mass murderer. More than a week ago, our hearts were broken. In the wake of great tragedy, we did not resort to hate and violence. No, instead, Charleston came together and, sentimental as it may be, sang “We Shall Overcome.” But the truth is, we already have.
Amen to that.