The bell at Portland's St. Mary Cathedral tolled 30 times Tuesday evening, once for each victim of recent mass shootings.
"Together we mourn, and call upon God, God of all compassion," Msgr. Patrick Brennan prayed during a vigil service in memory of those killed last week at Clackamas Town Center and at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
"We also pray for an end to violence in our society," Msgr. Brennan said. "Pray that God will bring peace to our country, our city and our hearts."
Sara Graham brought her 10-year old twin girls to the vigil. Katherine and Caroline, fourth graders at Cathedral School, prayed somberly.
"We came to honor the families and the children," said Sara, looking tenderly at her daughters. "It's hard to explain something like this to them. But being in church is a good way for them to wrap their arms around this."
Deacons Craig Casey and Paolo Dayto lit 30 candles placed in front of the cathedral altar. Later, Casey read the names of victims as the bell resounded across the neighborhood. Many of the scores of worshipers wept.
A reading from the prophet Isaiah said, "God will wipe away the tears from all faces." Msgr. Brennan read the beatitudes.
"Blessed are they who mourn; they shall be comforted" called to mind the parents of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook. "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" evoked the young victims themselves.
"There is no greater test of faith than evil like this," Msgr. Brennan said. He noted that Jesus never answered why there is evil in the world, but instead told us how to live authentically in a world that often puzzles us with its tragedy.
The saddened priest quoted the passage from the gospel of John: "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit."
Aware that the tragedy is now painfully fresh, he concluded: "In faith, we await this fruit."
After the vigil, worshipers wrote words of sorrow and support in large books that will be sent to St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., faith home of many of the victims.