The following commentary was first published online May 26 by The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky. It was written by Marnie McAllister, editor, and is made available here through Catholic News Service.

After an all-too-common massacre is visited upon a community in this nation of ours, such as the one perpetrated on the city of Uvalde, Texas, May 24, or the shootings earlier in May at a California church and a grocery store in Buffalo, we offer our thoughts and prayers.

Ten years ago, after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, saw the killing of 26, an outcry against “thoughts and prayers” rippled across the nation – that sentiment was no longer enough.

After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, young people expressed their frustration with the inaction of adults and said our “thoughts and prayers” needed to lead to action.

As Catholics, of course, we don’t dismiss the power of prayer. But we also know and believe wholeheartedly that prayer is a key part of how we live our faith. Prayer isn’t something we do passively and it is often what leads us to action.

Our minds, our hearts, our bodies – our whole selves at times – are engaged in the act of prayer. And we pray with intention.

With the victims of the latest massacre on our hearts – the sacred lives of 19 children and their two teachers – how will we pray and what will our intentions be? Let us consider that with great sincerity. And let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions thereafter, to help us discern our next steps.

One thing is certain – these massacres have to stop.

Children should not be slaughtered in their schools by semi-automatic rifles. Shoppers should not be gunned down in the grocery store. Worshippers should not fear that their sanctuaries will be invaded by someone wielding guns.

The high school student who allegedly carried out the May 24 massacre reportedly bought two semi-automatic rifles soon after his 18th birthday last week – legally under Texas law.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, whose diocese includes Uvalde, has spent the last days comforting his people.

He said May 24: “The Catholic Church consistently calls for the protection of all life; and these mass shootings are a most pressing life issue on which all in society must act – elected leaders and citizens alike.”

“We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable.”

Let us join him in his prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to consider how we can help. Let us pray with the intention to act.

The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the originating publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocese of Trenton or The Monitor.