During visits to Las Vegas I am one of the estimated five to six million visitors a year who attend mass at the Shrine of the Holy Redeemer.
In fact on October 1st I attended 11am mass there because it wasn’t just any Sunday it was the Feast Day of St. Therese of Lisieux and the celebrant Fr. O’Brien even wore vestments as an homage to this most beloved saint.
Fr. O'Brien Celebrant at 11am Mass Shrine of the Holy Redeemer
As mass ended Fr. O’Brien and the bulletin for this first Sunday of October advised that we should avoid the area as the Route 91 Festival was kicking off at 1pm and we should follow the directions of local law enforcement as over 20-thousand were expected to attend and it was going to create a traffic nightmare.
Sunday Bulletin October 1, 2017 Shrine of the Holy Redeemer
Because it is located in the shadow of Mandalay Bay and just across the street from the venue of the Route 91 Festival, when the bullets began to fly, the Shrine became a refuge for shooting victims and a staging area for the police investigation into the shooting.
Courtesy: Getty Images
For many, myself included the sense of loss, helplessness, fear, anger, shock and a litany of other feelings needed soothing. The Shrine would have usually been a sanctuary for visitors like me and the regular daily attendees who work nearby, but it was closed as it continued to be a command post for investigators. Although it is the venue to host large gatherings because it can hold over two-thousand attendees. Less than 12 hours after the shooting, Bishop Joseph Pepe issued a statement via social media and the Diocese announced they would host an interfaith service at its Guardian Angel Cathedral to provide a healing place and space for everyone seeking solace instead.
Worship Aid for Interfaith Service
Attending the mass was incredibly healing for me and provided me the opportunity to pray, sing and shed communal tears as we mourned the loss of 58 lives lost in the senseless violence perpetrated by a gunman. The most moving part of the service was when we held hands and sang “Let there be peace on earth”. It was such an incredibly moving and healing experience for all who were there.
Ministers of all Faiths Took Part in the Interfaith Service
As the now dubbed #VegasStrong community moves from absorbing the reality of this tragedy to a new sense of normal. A spokesman for the Diocese, Father Bob Stoeckig told the Catholic News Service that an employee who surveyed the damage in the aftermath reported seeing personal items littering the parking lot of this sacred space that included bloodied pieces of clothing and bullets that they believe ricocheted from locations hit at the concert venue.
The dawning of October 2nd brought with it the Feast of Guardian Angels. While many who grieved loved ones in the wake of the shooting may have asked where were my loved ones Guardian Angels? For me I felt an incredible feeling of my Guardian Angel working to keep me safe. Even as I did not attend the festival it was incredibly eerie to think that just ten hours later it would be the scene of the worst mass shooting in United States history.
I also thought it was fitting that the space that we found solace in the midst of the tragedy was the Guardian Angel Cathedral and the service was held on the Feast of the Guardian Angels. As we begin to hear of all the different scenarios that could have unfolded, many more people could have died as a result, which also bolsters my belief that Guardian Angels were at work.
The Shrine of the Holy Redeemer remains closed through the weekend. When it hosts its first masses after the closure, I’m sure that they will celebrate this beautiful church remained bullet-proof and the many bronze statues that adorn this place of worship were not damaged. I hope your travels in the year ahead will bring you to this Holy Shrine, where Jesus is waiting to welcome you with open arms!
Shrine of the Holy Redeemer Statue