Prayers in the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 15, 2012 — 20 Comments

Yesterday, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, after killing his mother, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire killing 20 students, six staff members, and then himself. In the wake of this monstrous moment is a trail of emotional devastation, tragedy, anxiety, and anger. A wave of fear and sadness that now resonates through this country, on the eve of our collective Winter festivals, where family and community are prized.

It is moments like this that test our faith, that test our bonds of community, that test our ability to trust and function normally. It is a moment that shrivels metaphor, withers expansive hopes, that brings bluntness to poetry, as Pablo Neruda once evinced in his “I’m Explaining A Few Things.”

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

Yet, in these darkest hours, when we are disarmed by horror, struck dumb by the overwhelming meaninglessness of children’s deaths, we turn to pray. We cast out to the numinous hoping against hope that there is a divinity, some kind spirit, who hears our prayers. Some encompassing Mother who absorbs our pain and uncertainty and reassures us that it may be humanity’s lot is to endure horror, but that we do not endure it alone. That we exist, co-exist, with a family of life, a family that in every breath defies the surety of our finite time embodied.

So we pray.

“HEALING to the Souls of those killed in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday & to all their families & friends. HEALING to the school, the community, this country & all impacted by this tragedy. Candles of Healing meditation before dawn in long night darkness.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

So we pray.

“Know that I, the Mother of All.
will comfort you who remain
Let your tears wash away the pain
Let your aching hearts mourn”
- Ginger Wages, COG First Officer

So we pray.

“It is okay to weep, to be sad, to feel a deep and haunting loss for people you didn’t even know. These actions strengthen our human bonds with one another. Tears are a sacred vow to remember the past and embrace the future with a new resolve.”The Witches’ Voice

We offer these prayers in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and we find a way to endure. We find a way to find ourselves, our families, our community, once more. We connect ourselves to Mystery and Love and we hope for the better world we will build from the ashes of this eternally empty moment.

May our prayers be with all who suffer this day, may Newtown find its way from this darkness, may love and family and returning light prevail for all of us. May our prayers be heard.

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Winterswan

    Thank you, Jason. This is beautiful.

  • Greenflame

    Thank you.

  • fyreflye
  • Kenneth

    I can no longer bring myself to pray to the gods for tragedies like this because those prayers, by definition, would be insincere. I say that because the entire narrative we have created for ourselves: That mass shootings are unavoidable, unpreventable, random lightning-strike tragedies, is bullshit.

    These things happen with the regularity that they do because we have formed a consensus in our society that mass casualties are more acceptable than the political discomfort of dealing with the conditions that allow them. We have decided that fundamental changes to, even substantive discussion about mental health and gun regulation policy is absolutely and irrevocably off limits.

    So we tell ourselves that mass shootings are just random acts of faceless evil or some nebulous force of nature. It’s a natural cause of death for children, the way diptheria was 200 years ago. We consider it normal for kindergartners to be drilled in how to respond in a firefight. Praying to the gods for relief in this instance in an insult to them. It is like praying for relief from hunger after refusing to plant crops. The gods are happy to help when we do our best and need a little nudge to get over the top. They’re not there to bail us out of our own collective willful stupidity.

    I’m done with the hollow displays of grief and soul searching. I’m done with the maudlin media hero narratives. I’m done with leaders who say their cowardice and lack of imagination in engaging root causes is done out of respect for the dead. Most of all, I’m done with candlelight vigils and insincere prayers.

    If we decide to do something this time, really do something, I’ll pray to the gods for wisdom. If we don’t, we’re saying, definitively, that these deaths are necessary and acceptable sacrifices to the status quo. If that’s the case, it’s time to suck it up and quit whining to the gods and make peace with the fact that you, or I, or your kids, could easily be the next corpse under a tarp in next shooting that will be called “the worst in U.S. history since that one last month.”

    • Gavin Andrew

      Agreed, Kenneth, an excellent summation of my own feelings. I have terrible sympathy for the victims and their families and the local community facing this horror. None for the inevitable hand-wringing and soul-searching in the national conscience. Not this time. Loose gun laws equal dead children. The U.S. has known that since Columbine, University of Arizona, Red Lake, the Amish School, Virginia Tech (do I need to go on?) but collectively has done little to address the twin roots of this evil – lack of access to mental health services in what passes for a public health system, and loose ownership laws regarding handguns.

      The U.S. body politic is broken and corrupt, the moral penury of its leaders evident. Will owning a 9mm Sig-Sauer with a fingerprint-resistant grip help anyone hunt deer or protect them from the Federal gummint? Really? If one’s 2nd Amendment right is absolute, why can’t one own something sexier like a LAWS rocket or a SAW? Thought so.

      Why are not citizens in the streets and marching on every state and federal
      legislature to demand reform NOW? Why are they not on their neighbors
      doorsteps right now organizing it and spreading the word? What better
      reason than dead children?

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Don’t blame the laws. If people want to kill, they will.

        I’m in the UK, and we have gun crime here. We just have different kinds (owning a handgun, for example, can be a crime in itself.)

        Then there is that overshadowed tragedy in China. On Friday a man attacked a school with a knife. Now, because he had a knife and not a gun, the amount of injured was higher that the amount of dead, but it is still much the same thing as what happened in Connecticut.

        It is not laws that need changing, but attitudes.

        • L.

          Are you serious?! Sure, a person who wants to kill may find a way, so of course values and morality play a role, but laws can and will dramatically affect the death toll. The “gun crime” of owning a handgun is NOT the same as the “gun crime” of blowing away a classroom of young children. Not to mention that a person with a handgun cannot wreak the same kind of damage that a person with an assault rifle can.

          Similarly, you’ve disproved your own point regarding China. Because the man had a knife he was unable to kill nearly as many children. Presumably if he was able to obtain the kind of weapon used in Newtown he would have wreaked similar horror.

          I am absolutely done with the “people kill people not guns” argument and all the other specious crap that has been spewed in the effort to fight gun control. I will take this shit on every time I hear it. I will fight and fight hard for gun control. If this is not where we draw the line, there is no line.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Statistically, the two forms of gun crime I listed are equal.
            Just watch:

            “There were 9,865 firearm offences in 2007/08, a rise of 89 per cent on the
            5,209 recorded in 1998/99.” (source: )

            That will include everything from murder to possession.

            As to my point disproving itself. Injury is more horrific that death. With a murder, you have second degree victims – people who were not actually involved in the crime but are affected by it (relatives and friends), but no first degree victims (when a person is dead, that is it.)
            With a maiming, you have the second degree victims (possibly less traumatised, but not necessarily) but you also have the first degree victim – someone who has been injured in more than just a physical capacity – that person will have psychological scars as well as physical ones.

            I live in one of the tightest gun control nations on the planet. All I see are people using different methods to hurt each other.

            For the record, I am not a fan of guns.

          • krisbradley

            ” Injury is more horrific that death”?

            I’m sure if you asked the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds or any family of the adults killed in CT they would strongly disagree. With injury, you might get to eventually take your child home and tuck him/her into bed, see them graduate and maybe one day get married. Scars, both mental and physical can heal.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            That is because they don’t understand the statement.

            Ever see a family slowly crumble because a child got a crippling injury that left them in need of constant care?

            It is pretty horrific to watch someone slowly come to hate their child for the unrelenting burden they have become.

            But that is not what I am on about. I am talking about the actual (first degree) victims. Trust me when I say that, sometimes, it is easier to have a clean death.

        • Gavin Andrew

          Yes, if people want to kill, they will.

          Access to handguns and semi-automatics makes it faster and easier.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Granted, but why fight the symptoms of these incidents, rather than the cause?

          • Gavin Andrew

            If the risk is more dead children, I suggest the appropriate response is all-out war on both.

            Frankly, if these poor children had all died as the result of an outbreak of amoebic meningitis in the water-supply, the response by the government would be massive, multi-pronged and immediate. But there exists no industry profiting from the sale of amoebic meningitis. Therein lies one of your causes. The invisibility of the crisis in mental health facing the U.S. is another. Take it all on, I say.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Money is finite. Have to pick your battles.

            My point stands. If people want to kill people, they find ways. Banning guns will do very little to change that. Far better to take preventative action in the form of stopping people from wanting to commit random acts of savagery.

          • Boris

            Was it really wise to take a shy and socially awkward kid to a shooting club in order to bolster up his self-confidence? What kind of confidence could he learn there? Would it have turned him into an extraverted easy-going adult?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            No. Not wise at all. You don’t need to change the law, there. You need to change society. I live in a country where holding a gun isn’t something usually seen as empowering.

    • Teresa

      Well said. I mentioned this in my blog post. I don’t know if it’s permissible to post the link but please know it was complimentary.

  • L.

    Thank you, Jason. Your writing beautifully expresses what I am feling.

  • Karen A. Scofield

    I pray we find ways to **also** go upstream of the wrenching but more immediate damage control end of things and change deeply in thousands of ways that are more preventative in nature. I pray for a very involved, informed cultural paradigm shift of this nature. I pray this so that children and others don’t have to die in incidents like this.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    What this country needs is a broad, deep, sincere discussion of the purpose of the Second Amendment.
    Its original context is quite clear. Americans had just toppled one distant, unresponsive government by force of arms mostly in private hands. Enough of them wanted the same option available relative to this new-fangled federal government, that the Federalists swallowed and accepted this and other concessions to get their fancy new Constitution ratified.

    Is that still what it’s for? If so, it makes no sense to object to households owning military style weapons, if that’s what we contemplate them going up against.
    If not, then what’s it for? At this point it has to be defended against the models of gun policy and violent crime elsewhere in the industrial world.
    It may be that in some parts of the country, personal gun ownership is very important, on the order of owning a telephone or a car. Let’s let those people talk while we listen, and let them talk in terms of their legitimate intererts and not of some God-given right to guns. It may well be that we don’t want the same gun policy in Appalachia as in Manhattan; let’s look at each rationally.