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The Gun Mass
Jamie Powe with text by Haley Hodges

The Gun Mass

The Gun Mass is a deep expression of lament for those who have perished in American school shootings. It is not a political statement, but merely a human expression of deep mourning. The senseless and tragic loss of life to atrocious gun violence in schools, compels us to express our societal grief through text and music.


Rotten fruit, rotten root. Hands up
Don’t shoot. Kyrie eleison.
By the waters of Columbine, of
Blacksburg, of Newtown, by the
Waters of Parkland and Uvalde,
There I sat down beneath my desk
(Don’t shoot) to weep.
Christe eleison. My soul to take.
Kyrie eleison. My soul to keep.


There is no
No utterable Gloria
In excelsis Deo—there is
Only the unutterable.
There is He, qui tollis
Peccata mundi, but also
He that brings them, and
Brings them so


Of all things visible and invisible
The rifle is king. I believe
In one gun, in One Gun Almighty.
How fast can you run?” Thus
Spake Death, and these, even
These are the conditions in which
Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum.


Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth!
And precious in His sight the
Little children He bid come.
Stop of the mouths of your
War machines this hour—
Strike them dumb. Let
Heaven and earth be full
Of their silence, lest every
Hosanna perish in violence.

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, who takes away
The sin of the world, what
Can it profit the Most High
If you take our sin but leave us
To die? Miserere nobis. Lord
Of the cellar, (hide!) Lord
Of the attic, let it be mercy
Falling semi-automatic.
Dona nobis pacem.
Lead us beside quiet
Waters, no more to bury
Our sons and our daughters.
Peace. Grant us ceasefire.
Grant us peace.

The issue of gun violence in America seems to be here to stay. This plain emerging fact should have us tying ourselves in knots over what’s to be done.
I am a musician by training, a poet by accident and Anglo-Catholic by creed. Following the slaughter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May of 2022, I was no longer content to wring my hands, and what we are now calling The Gun Mass was born.
This work is an expression of deep mourning, a liturgical and artistic response to hatred and violence, and a human response to shattering — and increasingly relentless — loss of life. There is no hidden agenda in the text, which I entrusted to Jamie Powe to raise to music that it may speak the more profoundly.
To leap too quickly from lament to hope without giving grief the space it requires is a deeply serious failure — one that falsely diminishes the agonies of the sufferer. While The Gun Mass offers no answers to the problem of the gun violence epidemic, it is my sincere hope that it may help build a bridge to the right questions. It takes its place — as Job’s friends once did — next to the bereaved, amidst the ashes.

– Haley Hodges