Priest wrestling with how to forgive after pregnant friend killed in Texas church shooting

Father Jonathan Felux found solace in prayers, love Monday while mourning

SAN ANTONIO – A local priest is wrestling with how to forgive after his pregnant friend and members of her family were killed in Sunday's Sutherland Springs church shooting.

26 killed, 20 wounded in mass shooting; Gunman dead

He found solace among almost 150 other priests and many community members at a San Fernando Cathedral Mass, dedicated to the shooting victims.

Candles flickered at the front of the cathedral representing those killed at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church. One of them was for Crystal Holcombe, a mother who was four months pregnant.

Mother killed while trying to protect children from gunfire

"In high school, she married one of my best friends, Peter. Wonderful woman. A woman who could be there for her family," Rev. Jonathan Felux said. "I’ve just always known Crystal to be a woman who loved people, loved them with everything that she was. She loved her first husband even during his sickness and his death. She loved her kids and she loved her family. She loves John and her in-laws and everyone so much."

Father Felux also mourns for three of Crystal's four children, her current husband John's parents, and his brother- and sister-in-law, who were also killed.

"Violence is violence and murder is murder, but it does beg the question how can someone get so twisted as to go into a place of peace and make it a place of violence?" Felux said.

Even as a Catholic leader, he is pained by the task of finding forgiveness.

"I would be lying if I said that right now my heart is ready to forgive this man. It isn't. I hope to be there. It's easy to say love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you. It's harder to do," he said, holding back tears. 

Over time, though, he knows peace must overpower anger, to stop the cycle. 

"Violence and anger only beget violence and anger, so we trust that message because it is the truth and it brings about a better world and a better humanity," he said.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller echoed that message.

"We need to promote more venues of peace, venues of health, health of mind and heart and spirit; we cannot continue violence. The words we use, the actions, the gestures, should be more human, more inviting. More recognizing precisely what we recognize in this moment, that we are people, and how to pull together," he said. "No one can say, I’ve had enough love. Love me no more."

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.