Mass for Virginia Tech provides consolation, hope
John Tierney | Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Only a week after Easter, the Notre Dame community once again “finds [itself] at the foot of the Cross,” said Father Pete McCormick during his homily at a memorial Mass for the Virginia Tech community Tuesday night at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
“We always have the Cross in our life, but we do not grieve without hope,” said McCormick, the assistant rector of Dillon Hall, who was just ordained on Saturday.
The Mass, presided over by Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman, was organized Monday after news of the 33-person massacre at Virginia Tech broke. Students were informed of the Mass by an urgent IrishLink email from Poorman late Monday.
The Basilica was packed to a standing room only capacity, with the entire rear lobby of the church completely full. The Mass drew more people than last fall’s 9/11 five-year anniversary Mass.
The congregation was made up largely of students, although many members of the outside community were also present. Some students came straight from the library, carrying their backpacks, while many dressed nicely for the service. Following the Mass, many students visited the Grotto to pray and reflect on the massacre.
In his homily, McCormick emphasized the powerful emotions many Americans have felt in the past few days in response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
“We have been overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions. […] We are shocked, we are fearful, and we are angered,” he said.
McCormick also underlined the similarities between the Notre Dame and Virginia Tech communities.
“We’ve heard the stories of students, staff and professors who died, and we realized that their goals and ambitions are not that different from our own,” he said.
Because of these similarities, McCormick said he believes the Notre Dame and Virginia Tech communities are “of one thought and mind.” Like those at Virginia Tech’s candlelight vigil Tuesday night, the members of the Notre Dame community worshiping at the Basilica and praying at the Grotto “gathered to pray for the lost souls and for peace in their hearts, and in our own,” he said.
The Mass was meant to represent the concern for the spiritual unity of all humankind.
“When one part of the human community suffers, we all suffer,” McCormick said.
McCormick said he believes members of the Notre Dame community can take strength in the Holy Spirit after Monday’s tragedy, which was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“The Holy Spirit allows us to move from a state of fear to faith,” McCormick said. “We may be fearful, but it is faith, not fear, that transforms and heals our wounds.”
While Monday’s events were undoubtedly tragic, McCormick stressed the ability to overcome disaster and increase spiritual strength.
“It is only for us now to find how even the Cross can be borne as a gift,” he said to close his homily.
The message of the Mass was not one of depression, but a more hopeful state of solidarity with fellow humans.
“We must be a community with hope to bring. There is no failure that the Lord cannot reverse,” McCormick said.