After the mass shooting in a high school in Florida last week, we are left asking again: How do we, particularly as Catholics, respond to tragedy? And how do we help children deal with the feelings they may have—fear, anger, or sadness? In “Peace in Hard Times: A lesson for families,” CATECHIST’s Susie Lloyd writes, “Give your children a reliance on God in good times, and they will turn to him in bad times.… Teach your children kindness in the home. Pray with them every night. Then, when times get tough, which they do in every life, your children will know that God is there always, holding them in the palm of his hand.” The full article, which tells the story of Immaculée Ilibagiza, who survived the Rwandan genocide, is also available to download and share with families.
We cannot promise children that nothing bad will ever happen; we can remind them, however, of all the grownups who love them and work to keep them safe. It can be a calming exercise to list all of these people aloud together, including parents, older siblings, teachers, and police officers. Adults may also need comfort. In his message to the Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, Pope Francis offered a message of support to all who mourn.
Children need to process their feelings, and prayer is always a good place to start. Begin a class prayer service for those involved in tragedies with this Blessing in Times of Trouble, which is based on Psalm 121. Then go around the room, giving the children the opportunity to share their petitions aloud, if they wish. Offer a quiet moment for all to share their silent prayers.
As we have witnessed, churches and schools are far from immune to violence. While it’s scary to talk about or even imagine something happening, planning can prevent tragedy. In “Safety in Our Classrooms,” Mary Lou Rosien offers a combined approach of planning and prayer to help keep children safe.
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