Hundreds gathered somberly as a community Thursday inside the dimly lit sanctuary of St. Mary’s Church in Foxborough to pause and quietly remember the victims of last week’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and pray for healing in Newtown, Conn.
An enshrinement of 28 candles – one for each live lost during the Dec. 14 massacre – was placed at the altar. The names and ages of the victims accompanied each candle.
There was a candle for Charlotte, age 6. A candle for Daniel, age 7. A candle for Victoria, age 27 and many, many more.
Twenty candles represented the 20 children who tragically lost their lives 11 days before Christmas. The oldest children, Daniel, Chase, Grace and Josephine, were just seven years old. Sixteen of the victims were only six. All were innocent, full of life and unaware of the kind of evil in the world that took their lives one week ago Friday.
The remaining eight candles represented the adults killed in last week’s tragedy, including the 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza.
“We ask that you continue to pray for the 28 people whose names are enshrined here on our altar,” Rev. Stephen Madden said. “Pray for them as they spend their Christmases in the peace of God’s Kingdom in Heaven.”
One-by-one, slowly and quietly, Rev. Madden called upon members of the community to come forward and light each candle representing the victims. Some came forward as a family, some came forward alone. All came to remember the lives lost on Dec. 14 and grieve with a community hurting so deeply 152 miles away.
Children lit candles in memory of children lost in Newtown. Parents and grandparents in Foxborough wept for the families who lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and wives in Connecticut.
The light burning brightly from the candles in the dimly lit sanctuary represented the light of God and life everlasting in the Kingdom of Heaven where these departed souls will forever shine. It is that light that conquers all, including the grief and heartbreak felt across the nation for the families of these 28 people in Newtown, Conn.
“In the beginning there was the word and the word was with God and the word was God,” Rev. Madden said. “He was and remained with God. All things came to be through Him. Without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life. And His life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
Rev. Madden told the Foxborough community that last week’s tragedy has "called the whole nation into a period of mourning" and that everyone has been affected by the killings in Newtown, Conn.
“We come here in search of comfort,” Rev. Madden said. “We come here to remember. Most importantly, we come here to pray in the quiet. … We come together here to remember that one must overcome the darkness of these times by the radiant light of the child Jesus and the radiant light of our own actions.”
Just days before the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Rev. Brian Smith told the Biblical story of Christmas during Thursday’s service and Deacon Rev. Paul Kline explained how that famous story had profound meaning in the wake of a tragedy like the one endured in Newtown, Conn.
“The Christmas story we heard is more than a story about the journey that Mary and Joseph made from Nazarene to Bethlehem,” said Rev. Kline. “The Christmas story we heard is more than just a story about the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story is a story that opens our eyes to see and our hearts to know how God loves us.”
Rev. Kline compared God’s love for us to that of the parents in Newtown, Conn. and said every prayer is “like coming home … a reunion with God.”
“Six days ago, some terrified parents were reunited with their children who were waiting for them at a firehouse near their school,” Rev. Kline said. “Do you even doubt that upon seeing their child alive and well, each one of those parents dropped to their knees and welcomed their son or daughter into their arms?
“Imagine the moment to come when in God’s Kingdom of Peace, parents who tonight are separated from their child because of death are reunited with their son or daughter who kissed them goodbye and went off to school that morning six days ago.
“Will you have any doubt that in that moment of joyful reunion those parents will fall to their knees to welcome their son or daughter back home into their arms?”
Rev. Kline likened the Christmas story told Thursday to “our great reunion story; a story of God falling to his knees” like those did in Newtown, Conn.
“The child born in the stable is God with us,” Rev. Kline said. “Always with us. With us, exactly where we are tonight … on our knees reaching out for reunion.
“I think that is why we kneel when we pray. We kneel in prayer because when grief, and fear and despair cause our knees to buckle, God falls with us. We kneel because when we come to God in prayer, God falls to His knees with the reunion of a parent welcoming their child back home.”
The world was forever changed one week ago Friday just 152 miles south of Foxborough.
On Thursday, the community came together, shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side, to hear Newtown’s cries, to feel its grief and to pray for its healing.
“We feel a need to take action to comfort those inflicted with fear and despair,” Rev. Kline said. “To feed those hungry for understanding, to visit those now imprisoned by fear and grief. To roll up our sleeves and reach out across 152 miles of God’s earth and do something, anything to make what happened six days ago just a little bit better. … Our vocation calls on us tonight. And our vocation calls on us to pray.”
At the conclusion of Thursday’s remembrance service, those in attendance were invited to sing “Silent Night” with the church’s worship team. The song’s lyrics spoke volumes to the purpose of Thursday’s service and as a result, has been published here to read and remember those who died tragically on Dec. 14, 2012.
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah
Christ the Savior is born. Christ the Savior is born.
Son of God love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth, Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
In Memory of the 26 Victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on Dec. 14, 2012:
- Charlotte Bacon, Feb. 22, 2006
- Daniel Barden, Sept. 25, 2005
- Rachel Davino, July 17, 1983
- Olivia Engel, July 18, 2006
- Josephine Gay, Dec. 11, 2005
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, April 4, 2006
- Dylan Hockley, March 8, 2006
- Dawn Hochsprung, June 28, 1965
- Madeleine F. Hsu, July 10, 2006
- Catherine V. Hubbard, June 8, 2006
- Chase Kowalski, Oct. 31, 2005
- Jesse Lewis, June 30, 2006
- James Mattioli, March 22, 2006
- Grace McDonnell, Nov. 4, 2005
- Anne Marie Murphy, July 25, 1960
- Emilie Parker, May 12, 2006
- Jack Pinto, May 6, 2006
- Noah Pozner, Nov. 20, 2006
- Caroline Previdi, Sept. 7, 2006
- Jessica Rekos, May 10, 2006
- Avielle Richman, Oct. 17, 2006
- Lauren Rousseau, June of 1982
- Mary Sherlach, Feb. 11, 1956
- Victoria Soto, Nov. 4, 1985
- Benjamin Wheeler, Sept. 12, 2006
- Allison N. Wyatt, July 3, 2006