Originally published in the South Florida Gay News:
Most Catholic masses include a prayer for two or three recently departed souls.
But at a special mass Sunday for Holy Angels Catholic Community in Wilton Manors, the list of names was 49 – those murdered in the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando on June 12. All 49 names were read aloud in the mixed Spanish and English mass amongst the hope that their families and loved ones would find comfort and consolation.
“We’ve come together to mourn those lost in Orlando. We all know too well the presence of evil and the destruction of hate,” said Bishop Terry Villaire. But despite the hideous acts committed, Villaire and his clergy urged their congregants to respond with love and forgiveness, as they are commanded to according to their beliefs. “Forgive others as we have been forgiven.”
But for congregant Kelly Graham, forgiveness is a “day by day” work in progress.
“I think of fear. People fear what they don’t understand. They only know what they’ve been taught all their life about other people,” Graham said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not angry. But I do have some anger . . . forgiveness will come.”
Father Richard Vitale said Christians would find a way to turn the tragedy into “unimaginable good.” He also called on the congregation to “resoundingly reject” the “invitations” to hate the Muslim community and to arm themselves “with the very same weapons” that were used to kill club patrons. “All they were doing was dancing. It’s our job to keep dancing for them.”
Vitale compared the temptation to hate now as the same temptation Jesus faced for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. “Nothing good comes out of hatred. The terrorist was not of Islam. He was of the terrorists.”
Villaire ended the special mass with a call relating to Father’s Day. He talked about how he was very lucky to have parents who knew and understood that he was gay, and whom supported him.
The hope, he said, is that all parents show love and kindness to their children, no matter who they are or who they love.
“If you can relate to any part of this story . . . pray for your father today.”
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