On Monday afternoon, April 15th, I was working at home when I learned the news of the violent attack against those taking part in the Boston Marathon. The same sinking feeling came over me as when I learned of the Newtown shootings last December. So too the same unanswerable questions: “Why do people do things like that? What is in their minds and hearts?”
My reaction to this tragic news was hardly unique. Like all such heartbreaking events, this one too was brought instantly into our homes and offices by the media. I watched some of the news coverage and listened to the stories of eye witnesses. I heard them asking the same questions that were going through my mind. A friend from Connecticut also called to talk. For him it brought to life again the sadness of Newtown.
Events like the Boston Marathon attack and others make us wonder what the world is coming to. We want to know how our lives could have become so vulnerable by the violent machinations of a few. We wonder what produces people capable of random acts of hatred aimed at innocent men, women, and children. And we may be tempted to ask if the good guys will prevail, if violence and death, in the end, don’t have the upper hand.
I must confess those thoughts were in my mind and heart as I drove up North Charles street listening to a newscast. My destination was the Notre Dame University of Maryland. I was keeping a long-standing appointment to have dinner with the young people involved in something called “Operation Teach”. As I drove up to the Noyes Alumni House on campus, a young man, Roberto, was waiting for me. Sharon Derr, who directs the program, warmly greeted me as did Dr. Jim Conneely, the newly inaugurated President of the University, as well as School Sisters of Notre Dame. Dr. Barbara Edmondson, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese, was inside with about 15 student teachers whom I was about to meet.
Operation Teach has been around since 2001. It is a joint project of the University and the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Department of Catholic Schools that attracts excellent young people from around the country to teach in our schools. It is a two-year service program for college graduates who agree to serve in a Baltimore-area Catholic elementary or secondary school while earning a master’s in teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University. They learn the art of living in community, hone their teaching skills, and grow in their lives of faith. These student teachers told me where they came from, what schools they are teaching in, and how they love our Catholic schools and their students. Some had questions about the Church and wanted to know about my ministry as Archbishop. There was an easy spirit of give and take, not to mention a very nice meal.
All of us prayed for the victims of the Boston Marathon attack, as well as for the young people which these student teachers are serving. We prayed for an end to violence and we prayed that the students in our schools would grow to become the people God meant them to be and to understand and live according to their God-given dignity.
The evening went by quickly and soon it was time to leave. After all, teachers have tests to grade and lesson plans to prepare … and Archbishops have columns to write.
On the way home I reflected on the young people I had just met … on their talents as well as their spirit of faith and service. They helped me put into context the terrible news I had heard just before leaving my home to have dinner with them. They reminded me that the upside-down world of the irrationally angry is not the last word. The Lord continues to raise up new generations of leaders endowed with talents and blessed with a spirit of service.
The source of our hope is none other than the Risen Christ. By dying He destroyed our death and by rising restored our life. Through the sacraments, He still walks among us and dwells in our hearts. He even calls us His friends. How blessed I was to spend an evening with the Lord’s special friends. Without even trying they bore witness to the Risen Lord.
For more information about Operation Teach, visit their website here.