July 18, 2016
The first indication I had yesterday that all was not well here in Baton Rouge came from my pianist at church. She walked in for our usual pre-Mass warm up and reported that she had seen at least a dozen police cars responding to something on Airline Highway. In hindsight, she might have driven past while the shooting was happening. She could not have missed it by more than a minute or two.
Three police officers are dead, two from Baton Rouge City Police and one from East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s deputy was the son of parishioners at my church.
I have bought gas at the service station where the shootings happened. It’s only five miles from my house.
The violence that engulfs our world is always far away… until it isn’t.
In Louisiana – Albert Bigelow Paine
The long, gray moss that softly swings
In solemn grandeur from the trees,
Like mournful funeral draperies,—
A brown-winged bird that never sings.
A shallow, stagnant, inland sea,
Where rank swamp grasses wave, and where
A deadliness lurks in the air,—
A sere leaf falling silently.
The death-like calm on every hand,
That one might deem it sin to break,
So pure, so perfect, —these things make
The mournful beauty of this land.
But we can give voice to the brown-winged bird. We can break the death-like calm. On a Sunday morning while our city erupted in gunfire and grief, my friends and I – we sang. We sang with and for our people. We sang with and for our God. We sang because as long as we keep singing, the darkness has not won.
In moments like these, we all ask ourselves, What can we do? I do not know how to stop the violence. A deadliness lurks in the air,— A sere leaf falling silently. I cannot stop the leaf from falling. But, for as long as God grants me breath, I can make the air around it vibrate with beauty, hope, and praise.
Will you sing, too?