Saturday, June 18, 2022

Uvalde and the Cathedral of San Fernando

Cathedral of San Fernando
During my trip to San Antonio, Texas, at the beginning of June, 2022, I stopped by the Cathedral of San Fernando (est. 1728) to visit Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. This was the day after a marathon day of visiting all the cemeteries of Old San Antonio (which I will write about another time). Given that it was only a bit over a week since the massacre of the school children and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, my Mom asked me to say a prayer for those 22 victims of senseless gun violence. 
Uvalde is only about 65 miles west of San Antonio.  

I'm not religious, but I told her I would do this for her. (I was raised Catholic - fourteen years of Catholic school and church that I've been recovering from all my life.) I figured I would say a prayer for her at the cathedral since I was going there anyway. When I was here last, about fifteen years ago, there was a service going on, so I did not get to see the inside of the church. I did get to see the sepulcher, however, in the vestibule of the church, that supposedly holds the remains of Crockett, Bowie, and William Travis – heroes of the Alamo (they all died, in case you didn’t know, defending the Alamo mission from Mexican General Santa Anna’s army in 1836 – this, part of the struggle to achieve Texas’ independence from Mexico). The sarcophagus was still there where I’d remembered, and there was a guy photographing it. There was a donation box nearby, so I dropped in a couple bills and snapped some photos.

There was no service in session, so I explored the church. It was quite large and well cared for. I walked the outer aisles so I could better appreciate the stained glass windows along the sides of the building. There were stations of the cross sculptures and several of the Mexican-style religious statues with the glass eyes.

As I made my way to the altar, I noticed a large wooden cross in that area – maybe twelve feet tall. As I got closer, I was startled to see stuffed toy animals surrounding its base, each with a slip of paper with a different typed name attached to it. These were the first names of the 19 children and two teachers killed in the Uvalde school massacre on May 24, 2022 (ref.). My heart went to my throat. Seeing such a memorial, so close in time and location to the tragedy, makes the abstract instantly real and scary.

I walked around to the other side of the altar, where in a small chapel, there were votive candles and the sign you see above, “Prayers for Uvalde.” I donated some money, lit a candle, and offered a prayer on my Mom’s behalf. Many of the glass-eyed statues seemed mournful, as they seemed to pity their lowly, faulty human counterparts who knelt before them. 

When I was at my hotel later, there was a man and woman, of obvious Spanish descent, leaving with their two little boys. The boys were maybe four and six. I instantly pictured them dead. Not something I would normally do in my wildest dreams, but the reality of Uvalde gripped me – these kids were no different than the 19 innocents who were shot. I imagined for a second the horror the parents would be subjected to.  

As I heard someone say in the news the following week, the time for thoughts and prayers is over. Politicians, get off your asses and change the laws that will prevent such things from recurring. I have an idea for a punishment for shooters, which would easily act as a great deterrent to future criminals. Describing that here would probably ban me from social media for life. At the very least, card-carrying NRA members should have been forced to attend all the funerals associated with the Uvalde massacre. So lets just make sure we all recall the phrase “Remember Uvalde” as often as people repeat, “Remember the Alamo,” and don't let the politicians sweep Uvalde under the rug like they've done with all the other mass shootings.

Link to "Thoughts and Prayers"

The author, remembering the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, June 2022