The comedian John Oliver addressed the recent mass shootings before his regular show aired Sunday night. He began like this: “When it comes to gun control, I know it can feel like everything’s been said before. In fact, even pointing out “everything’s been said before” has been said before. In fact, even pointing out the fact that “ ‘everything’s been said before’ has been said before” has been said before. But while the depressingly familiar numbness that you may be currently feeling can help you handle the pain in the short term, in the long term it can actually be a real problem because unless something hurts as much as it’s supposed to, nothing gets done about it.”

As I watched, I felt convicted, because I was quite familiar with that “depressingly familiar numbness” – I had already noticed it in myself several times on Sunday. Yet we cannot afford to become numb or to ever think this violence is normal – otherwise nothing will ever change. In this context, I am so grateful for the leadership of many of our Episcopal bishops (including our own Bishop Dietsche) through the group Bishops United Against Gun Violence. In response to the weekend shootings, they have issued a public statement repudiating Christian Nationalism and systemic racism.

It is also depressingly familiar to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of these tragedies – nevertheless, I commend to you a litany that the bishops have crafted. I particularly like the way that they introduce it:

“The ‘Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting’ has been updated to include two more mass shootings that took the lives of 32 precious children of God in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio within a single 24-hour period. We offer this litany, once again, with the reminder that one does not pray in lieu of summoning political courage, but in preparation for doing so. Bishops United Against Gun Violence invite you to join in this litany and our commitment to take action so that our country can be freed from the epidemic of gun violence.”

(The emphasis is mine; I also abridged their prayer for depressingly obvious reasons – you can find the whole litany, as well as more information at Bishops United Against Gun Violence.)

May this prayer indeed give us courage to act.

Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting

God of peace, we remember all those who have died in incidents of mass gun violence in this nation’s public and private spaces…

Four dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.
Give to the departed eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them.

Twenty-two dead at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Give to the departed eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them.

Ten dead in the Oregon District of downtown Dayton, Ohio.
Give to the departed eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them.

All those who have died in any incident of gun violence.
Give to the departed eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them.

For survivors of gun violence.
Grant them comfort and healing. Hear us, Lord.

For those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Grant them peace. Hear us, Lord.

For those first responders who care for victims of gun violence.
Protect and strengthen them. Hear us, Lord.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.