Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Coming on up for the rising tonight.

Bruce Springsteen
“The Rising”

Dear Friends,

On Monday of Holy Week, many of us were profoundly moved by the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one of the most treasured places of prayer in the world. The blaze that swept through the cathedral broke our hearts because of its historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. Even those who had never visited this sacred space were moved to tears as there is within us this deep and abiding need for sacred spaces that connect us and hold us in their beauty and majesty.

When the spire came crashing down, many expressed the feeling of profound loss that they experienced when the Twin Towers in New York City fell on September 11, 2001. Though the causes of the destruction were completely different and thankfully no one was killed at Notre Dame, there is this emptiness inside when watching such devastation.

On Good Friday, this emptiness that was named by Paul on Palm Sunday, of Jesus who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” is captured in our veneration of the cross as we unite our sorrows and the sufferings of the world with the death of Jesus.

Holy Saturday finds us watching and waiting at the tomb, searching for clues, grasping for meaning in the emptiness. This year, Holy Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the mass murder at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. On National Public Radio on Friday, a survivor of the school shooting, Heather Martin, was interviewed by Nathaniel Minor. Heather was a senior at Columbine on April 20, 1999, and recalls being in choir practice when the shooting began. They barricaded themselves in the room until the SWAT team rescued them.

Heather talked about the trauma of that day, of her life spiraling out of control after the shooting, of living with the horrible memory that left a scar upon her soul. After several years, she was able to get her life together but she never wanted to talk about that day. Then, on the 10th anniversary, she went back to Columbine for a memorial service. In meeting with classmates who also survived the day, she realized she was not alone in her need for healing. This was the turning point for Heather as she “went back to college and got her teaching license. She and other Columbine survivors started the Rebels Project, a nonprofit named after their high school mascot.” The focus of the group was to help the survivors of other shootings.

One of those who contacted her was Sherrie Lawson who survived the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. in 2013. Sherrie told NPR she was filled with so much pain that she was on the verge of suicide. But one night she searched for a survivor’s group and found the Rebels Project. Sherrie and Heather began emailing until finally Sherrie flew out to Colorado to meet Heather.

They both remember sitting in the car after supper and talking for three hours while listening to Bruce Springsteen. The song that became their favorite is “My City of Ruins.” Both were deeply moved not only by the music but by the words of the song: “There’s a blood-red circle on the cold, dark ground. The church door’s open, I can hear the organ’s song, but the congregation’s gone.” But Sherrie said it is the end of the song the stirs her soul when Springsteen sings, “Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!” because it reminds her “that you’ve been through this thing, but life goes on. And you can rise up. And it’s not going to be the same, but good things can still happen. And definitely, positive things have happened since.”

Today, Heather and Sherrie have risen from the terrible trauma they have experience in their lives to find new life. Today, they “spend time traveling across the country together to communities affected by shootings.”

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though spires may fall in fire and beauty turns to ashes, courage and compassion, hope and beauty will rise up.

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though truth can be compromised and even crucified, the Truth will rise up and set us free.

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though love can be betrayed, mocked, tortured, and hung out to die on a cross, love will rise up again.

So, friends, may we rise up this Easter to embrace the call of the empty tomb: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised up.”

Rise up, my friends, as we become a New Creation in the Risen Christ! Have a Blessed and Holy Easter season!

Peace in the blood of Christ,

Joseph Nassal, C.PP.S.
Provincial Director