Fr. Daniel Bowen, a Mercedarian Friar, here provides some insights on how a Catholic can learn from and respond to the unfortunate mass shootings that occur in our society today. He is interviewed by Kevin Banet, a journalist and publicist.
This is part of a series of interviews on the topic, “Forming Catholic Gentlemen.” You can see this interview as a video at “Mass Shootings Reveal a Lack of Manliness.”
We have all been horrified by the mass killings of the past few months. It seems that not a week goes by without news reports that sound so similar: a young man killing innocent people with one or more high-powered weapons.
What does this tell us about how we should raise boys to be men? What can we as Catholic do to raise the standards of character and morality and strive for a culture led by Catholic gentlemen?
My name is Kevin Banet and today I will be interviewing Fr. Daniel Bowen, the vocation director of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
In this video, we will continue our series on Forming Catholic Gentlemen.
These murders reflect a different kind of social upheaval than in the past. They are not motivated by war, by religious ideas, by ideological conflict, or even private grudges.
There are studies, such as The Violence Project, that seem to come up with a common profile on the part of the perpetrators:
They are: childhood trauma, specifically violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicide, and extreme bullying. There is also a psychological buildup in the time before the act on the part of the person toward hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, thoughts of suicide, and oftentimes rejection by peers.
Copycat killings often happen a week after a similar incident, when the media has thoroughly covered the event.
What can we make from all of this, Father?
These are certainly difficult times, and we grieve with the families of victims in Highland Park, Uvalde, Tulsa, Buffalo, and other places. As Catholics, we need to pray, and to form an attitude and a plan to respond to this phenomenon in a truly Christian way.
The U.S. Bishops have spoken out on this.
The heads of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote to members of Congress on June 3, saying,
“There is something deeply wrong with a culture where these acts of violence are increasingly common.”
They urged elected officials to address, as they said,
“… all aspects of the crisis, including mental health, the state of families, the valuation of life, the influence of entertainment and gaming industries, bullying and the availability of firearms.”
I’d like to add to that … my observation that in the news reports of such incidents, you hear the word “evil” used a lot.
Of course it is evil. But it is more than just a failure on the part of our leaders to properly organize human society.
The origin of evil, if I may say so plainly, is the devil. The devil’s temptation of Adam and Eve led to original sin, which is a tendency to sin. Original sin has been inherited by all of us.
Christopher Check, editor of Catholic Answers, shed some light on this when he wrote a recent article called, “The True Roots of Mass Violence.” In the article, he quoted St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Mr. Check added,
“There are demons at work in the world, and these demons are persons—not just vague forces or bad feelings.”
Father, good point. Is there a prominent area of our society that the devil is aiming at today?
I think that one of the main institutions under attack is the family.
In the article I quoted, Mr. Check says that there is some solid research that exposes the idea that social chaos, as he says, “fills the vacuum left by the retreat from marriage.”
He suggests that the government should encourage marriage and the traditional family.
The author adds that,
“Closer to the truth is the causal relationship between the disintegration of marriage and the family and the abundant social pathologies that afflict the children of broken homes.”
And I agree with Mr. Check. Therefore, Catholics who are married and want to do something about mass shootings should live fully and in a public way the teachings of the Church concerning the sacrament of matrimony.
Mr. Check adds:
“…don’t divorce, and stop contracepting.”
“That sounds glib, I know, but matrimony is a sacrament, so with it comes all the graces needed to live it to the fullest.”
And I agree with him that such divine grace, in fact, is the ultimate remedy for evil.
That sounds like it’s on the mark, Father.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that children have rebelled and acted violently. Do you know of any saints in your Order, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, who lived a life that could shed some light for us with this problem?
Yes. There is St. Peter Armengol, who lived in the 13th century in Spain. He was inclined to violence as a child, but saw the error of his ways and experienced a religious conversion.
St. Peter spent his childhood and adolescence in a quiet family atmosphere of honesty. However, Peter displayed a violent temper and rebelled against everyone around him. He was drawn in by bad companions to a dissolute and criminal life. He became a robber and hung out with a gang of bandits.
Peter’s father, a nobleman, was commissioned by the king to rid the area of thieves. Arnold went out with his men but were attacked by robbers. Who do you think was the leader of the robbers? His own son Peter.
But by the hand of Providence, Peter showed a change of heart. Laying down his sword in front of his father, he begged him for pardon. Nevertheless, Peter was brought to trial, and the judge sentenced him to death.
Peter, admitting the error of his ways, begged the judge for clemency. Because of the meritorious service of his father to the king, he was pardoned. He then entered our own order, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
The Order of Mercy was founded on the mission of redeeming Christians whose faith was in danger of being lost after being captured by Muslim captors. Peter distinguished himself by his strong penitential spirit and his courage in promoting these ransoms.
St. Peter participated in redeeming more than one hundred persons in his work. At one point, his captors hung him from the gallows, but he did not die, a miracle that he attributed to the protection of the Virgin Mary.
St. Peter died in 1304 and, since he was almost martyred, his name was entered in the Roman Martyrology in 1688.
Here is what we can learn from the example of St. Peter Armengol:
- Even in good families, a child can come under an evil influence.
- We often don’t know the source of psychological problems in a person – whether through their own will, or through bad influences or temptations of some kind.
- The evil one, the devil, tempts people in different ways, and we must resort to prayer and the sacraments to resist him.
- Even the worst criminal can experience a conversion and change their ways.
Thus, we must never give up hope on someone who has done the most evil of deeds. We must pray for them, do all we can to help the person reform. On a wider scale, we must promote traditional marriage in our society.
By the way, you can see our video, “From Gangster to Saint – the Story of Peter Armengol” and other videos on saints, on the Mercedarian Friars USA YouTube channel.
That’s very impressive, Father. Maybe we should take St. Peter Armengol as a patron saint for our efforts to reform marriage and to raise wholesome and holy children in our society.
That sounds like a good idea.
Let’s wrap this interview up with a prayer:
"We praise you, Saint Peter Armengol, for your glorious martyrdom. After your dissolute youth, your observance of strict penance and burning charity were the fruit of your unbounded love for Christ Crucified and the love which God and his holy Mother Mary graced you.
"Come to our aid in times of trouble and obtain for us the assistance of our holy Mother.
"We acknowledge that we too have sinned, yet, like you, we desire to be converted. Obtain for us, Saint Peter Armengol, a love for prayer, for Penance, and for our neighbor, so that we may rejoice with you and all the saints in eternity. Amen."
If you liked this interiew, see all of the Mercedarian videos on YouTube at Mercedarian Friars USA.