As awful as this may sound, I’ve had to stop watching the coverage of the Sandy Hook School shootings. It’s not because of a “that’s them not me attitude.” It’s just that at a certain point my heart could no longer bear the loss and horror of it all. I could feel myself sinking into darkness as I immersed myself in the unfolding details.
In my gloom, I remembered A Letter to a Friend by Fra Giovanni. Years ago, I was so overwhelmed by its beauty I used it as a concept for a Christmas card. The premise behind the reading is that we can choose joy over despair. It’s there for the taking. I’m not suggesting we should swallow our grief. No, but after it’s run its course, we should not linger there. It serves no one to poke and prod at the details of our sorrow.
Today, the only thing many of us can do for those affected by the shootings is to pray. At some point, that may change. But for now, I believe prayers sent to heaven from joy-filled hearts is no small thing.
Below is Fra Giovanni’s letter from Christmas Eve, 1510:
I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven. No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take Peace. The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it yet, within our reach, is joy. Take joy. And so, at this Christmas, time I greet you with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
The 100 year old gateway to the Maplewood Cemetery in New Lenox, IL. The little angel from my illustration in the flesh. Allie with the laughing eyes.
All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.