Lacrimae Rerum

Death moves us to tears. The tragic murders in the Jewish school at Toulouse have a particular poignancy because the victims were so young and defenceless. No amount of security, no amount of forethought is adequate protection against human malice. So, there is ‘mourning and weeping in Ramah and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more’ and the rest of us feel helpless in the face of such horror. Tears express what we  cannot put into words.

Feeling helpless is not the same as being helpless. There are two things all of us can do, no matter where we live or what our age. First, we can pray: for those who have died, those who grieve, those who are trying to find the perpetrator, for the murderer himself. Prayer invites God into situations where he seems absent, makes it possible for him to change hearts and minds, allows change to occur. Second, we can examine our own conduct. Violence begins inside. In most of us the angry word, the unkind thought never go beyond that, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that we are ‘incapable’ of doing violence to another. As we pray for the teacher and children killed in Toulouse, and the three soldiers killed the week before, let us also pray for ourselves, for pure and compassionate hearts.

As always, I should love to know what you think.

*Lacrimae rerum: The quotation is from Vergil, Aeneid 1. 462, ‘sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt’ (These are the tears of things and mortal things [i.e.sufferings] touch the mind), spoken by Aeneas as he gazes at a mural depicting the Trojan War. Vergil’s warrior hero is overcome by thoughts of the futility of war.


5 thoughts on “Lacrimae Rerum”

  1. For these thoughts, thank you, Sr Catherine. They challenge us to confront who we are without the Grace of God in Christ. Such things are uncomfortable and naturally resisted.

    But it seems to me, each time we deny this and introduce relativism into our judgments, we are passing the buck. It stops at the Cross, but we add to, rather than help to stem the tide of the world’s pain.

    To pray is both the least and the most we can do. But there may be much in between.

    Prayer not only changes situations, perhaps even more importantly, it changes ‘us’ and the nature of our petitions.

  2. You echo my mother’s sentiments as she dealt with her warring children 60 years ago. It is a lesson I still have to work at. The temptation to yell at a young driver who insulted me after his bad driving forced me into a ditch, was great. I suspect it is those praying for me that helped me to keep silent

  3. I find myself wanting to comment on the early March blog on the role of the cellarer. As I do so I wonder if it has relevance to today’s posting.
    I spent my day turning out the garden shed and especially overhauling all the tools – oiling, sharpening, re-setting. This put me in mind of St Benedict’s words on the care of the kitchen utensils in the monastery.
    I found myself admiring the patina that long use and good care leaves on objects – the wooden handle that has, over years, worn itself to the shape of one’s hand, the years old repair that still binds the tool to its shaft, the memories that pre-loved tools hold of their previous owners.
    Clearing out the shed has been a very positive experience and the work done will carry me through the growing season. Recalling Benedict’s words makes me realise that these small deeds can be a tiny offering and part of a greater assertion of the light over the dark of the world.

  4. Thank you for those positive reminders of things we can do. Firstly that prayer makes it possible for God to melt hearts and minds including our own.

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