Sandy Hook Mother Shares Journey of Suffering: A Review of ‘Finding Sanctuary’

In her new book, Jennifer Hubbard shows how suffering can become redemptive.

‘Finding Sanctuary’ is a poignant read.
‘Finding Sanctuary’ is a poignant read. (photo: Ave Maria Press)

FINDING SANCTUARY

How the Wild Work of Peace Restored the Heart of a Sandy Hook Mother

By Jennifer Hubbard

Ave Maria Press, 2021

160 pages, $15.95

To order: EWTNRC.com or (800) 854-6316


When Jennifer Hubbard walked her son and daughter to the bus stop on Dec. 14, 2012, she did not know that her life would soon be forever changed. In just a few hours, a young man would spend the last five minutes of his life shooting 26 of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and one of the victims was Hubbard’s 6-year-old daughter, Catherine. In her new book, Finding Sanctuary, Hubbard walks the reader through her every emotion, from the shock of the initial loss to her anger at what happened to her grappling with suffering and, finally, to her finding peace with God’s grace.

One comes tentatively into this book, aware that they are approaching the sacred ground of a mother’s suffering over the violent death of her first-grade child. Her grief and the horror of the tragedy are unimaginable. The moments of terror and unknowing that the 6-year-olds faced at the end of their lives are hard to wrap one’s mind around. 

And then there are the survivors, such as Catherine’s older brother, who could not find his sister as he waited for his mom to meet him outside the school after the shooting, and her father and extended family. The tragedy affected the whole community, and people reached out from across the world to console the families of the victims. In Hubbard’s book we hear about all of these people, but mostly of a mother’s grief and encounter with the void which was once Catherine’s physical presence in her life. This is not an easy book to read, because, in it, one must come face-to-face with the reality of human suffering.

Hubbard shows so beautifully how suffering can become redemptive — how it can draw us closer to God, transform our hearts, and make us into new people. After we have suffered with Christ, we can look back on what we have suffered and see how the suffering was necessary to bring us to where we are now. God can use even the most horrible circumstances to bring about the healing of hearts and the redemption of souls. It is often in our most broken circumstances that we experience God most present. 

Hubbard does not leave her reader amid her deep suffering, but tells the story of how she found peace despite all she suffered. Her losses did not end with her daughter’s death — and she tells of her further griefs. She tells how she has found hope and peace despite knowing that more suffering is to come. The truth she gives in this book is that suffering is unavoidable, but when we surrender it to God, he will bring us through it. 

This book underscores how God meets us in our suffering. He knows our suffering. He suffers with us. He suffered for us. Our suffering is where we can offer all we have to God and allow him to make us new. While it is not always his will for us that we avoid suffering, it is his will that we know that we are loved by him. Hubbard’s words and story are an example of how God pours his grace into our suffering and brings His light to us and others through it. 

Finding Sanctuary is not a book to be taken up lightly — it is for a reader who has lived through tragedy, death, illness or broken relationships. It is a book for people who have suffered to take in prayer and enter into God’s healing love. So, if you, too, have suffered, take in Hubbard’s story, pray with the Scripture and reflection questions for each chapter, and get ready to meet God in a sanctuary of peace you never thought you would find. 

Duccio’s ‘Pentecost’ (1308)

Pray the Pentecost Novena

The prayer recalls and invites Catholics to participate in the nine days that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles spent in prayer after Christ ascended into heaven.