Murder, hatred don't have the last word, Bishop Hanchon tells faithful: 'God has the last word, and it is always a word of hope'

DETROIT — In response to unimaginable violence, a few dozen Catholics gathered to call upon Mary for unimaginable grace.

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon led a small group of Catholics in the glorious mysteries of the rosary at St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit before the noon Mass on April 4 in response to the terrorist attacks at hotels and churches across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that claimed more than 350 lives.

Bishop Hanchon said the rosary was a chance to pray for the souls of the departed and a reminder that just as Jesus rose from the dead, God has the last say in all things.

“I find when I do things in the context of prayer, it opens up my heart to possibilities,” Bishop Hanchon told Detroit Catholic. “Christians have a conviction, especially in times of tragedy, that God has the last word. That the assassin, the murder, doesn’t have the last word. God’s word is the last word, and it is always a word of hope.”

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon leads a rosary service at St. Aloysius for the victims of Sunday's terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, which included several churches and hotels. 

As the attacks happened on the holiest day of the year for Christians — the day of celebration when Christ conquered death — Bishop Hanchon said it is sometimes hard to comprehend the world, which is why Catholics need to look with hope to life beyond death.

“Easter is a promise to us Christians that God has promised us new life, promised us somehow when life seems insoluble, that He will appear for us,” Bishop Hanchon said. “I think to the story of Abraham and Isaac; Abraham didn’t want to sacrifice Isaac, and then at the last moment, God causes this ram to appear in the bush. So today with the rosary, one of the things to think about is how God always has a ram in the bushes for us.”

Bishop Hanchon noted that Detroit’s Muslim community has condemned the attacks in Sri Lanka and stands in solidarity with the Christian community around the world in praying for the souls of those lost.

Lent was a time for self-reflection and looking at one’s faults, Bishop Hanchon said, so praying the rosary offers one a chance to look at one's own soul, one's own sins, and resolve to love their fellow man just as Jesus loved mankind on the cross.

Catholics pray during a lunchtime prayer vigil at St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit.

“I remember a poem by a British poet, where the last line of the poem goes, ‘Love your crooked neighbors, with your crooked heart,’” Bishop Hanchon said. “And that stuck with me, that no one is perfect. I may not have murdered anyone, as they did in Sri Lanka, but I have had violent thoughts toward other people, and so it is hard for me to be cynical when I realize my own sins. 

“I pray that maybe this Lent has had the effect on a lot of people to remind us of our sinfulness, not so we feel bad, but glorious, because despite our sin, God has forgiven us; Jesus has found us worthy, when we were unworthy,” Bishop Hanchon continued.

“Our world is certainly not worthy of God’s blessing, but we pray for it, and He gives it,” Bishop Hanchon said. “We have seen, since Sunday, marvelous acts of reconciliation and expressions of sympathy from the Muslim community, so Christians should not feel their faith is disregarded. People who are of tender heart, God is open to their prayers; that is how God’s works. He always hears the prayers of the faithful, especially in times of need.”