I hope this update finds you well. I am enjoying the first “crispness” of the yearly drop in temperature in the Northwest. However, although I now live in Spokane after six years in Las Vegas, my ministry in Las Vegas continues. I spend the first week of each month back in the Vegas Valley. Here in Spokane I am learning how to be patient with the process of adjusting to a very different climate. Patience in finding ways to serve the students and faculty at Gonzaga University; patience in discerning how best to serve the Diocese. Perhaps you too are dealing with some situation that requires the practice of patience.
What is patience? It is the capacity for calmly waiting for ideas, for growth, and for achievement regardless of obstacles in our path. When applied to the aftermath of the tragedy in Las Vegas on October 1, patience is the virtue much needed for the ongoing healing of individuals and of the community. And, I propose, on three levels: the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.
The Physical: Five Hundred and Sixty-Four people ended up in five different hospitals following the shooting. Most have now been released, but for many their wounds will require extensive therapy. Over the seven hours after the horror ended, those who were critically injured were rushed into ambulances and taken to a hospital. People were also hurt in the panic of rushing for safety.
The Emotional: Research shows that experiencing or witnessing a mass shooting can lead to serious psychological consequences, such as: anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These emotions for many will take a long time to heal. Research further shows that symptoms vary from person to person – from grief to fear, from nightmares to survivor’s guilt for living when their friends or members of their family died at such an event. Sherriff Joe Lombardo said recently that 400 police officers needed counseling after the shooting. Experts say it is very important to recognize symptoms that might need attention from a mental health care professional. (These comments are taken from an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, by Jessie Bakker, October 7-8, 2017, page 2 AA.)
The Spiritual: The healing of the spirit – personally and communally – began on October 2 with an inspiring number of vigils: in churches, synagogues, neighborhoods, and on street corners near the Strip. A friend and I attended the service at Guardian Angel Catholic Cathedral; people came from many faith traditions to support one another and to pray for those who were killed and for their families. Prayer services continue to this day in the Valley.
It is not unusual to ask, where was God in this terrible event? We know that suffering is a mystery and that sometimes all we can say in the face of tragedy is: “I believe You are a God of love, help my unbelief.” A few days ago I came across the following passage from Psalm 94:
“The Lord will not abandon his people….Were not the Lord my help,
my soul would soon dwell in the silent grave. When I say, ‘My foot is
slipping,’ your mercy O Lord, sustains me.”
It is definitely God who sustains me and helps me to be at peace despite the evil actions in the world.
The Spiritual, Part II: A second definition of patience is – an ability or willingness to suppress annoyance when confronted with delay. This definition can be applied to the natural human need for closure, for making sense out of the senseless. We want to know why someone would do such a horrific action that killed 58 people. But investigations take time, painstaking time. Patience here means trusting that the proper authorities are doing their best to finding out the “Why?” It also means avoiding jumping to conclusions, conspiracy theories, and distrust of authority.
Finally, we need the virtue of Hope. Hope that recuperation will happen. In time. And with the help of the community.
Fr. Max Oliva, SJ