Thursday, September 11, 2014
September 11, 2001 was a date like December 7, 1941 or November 22, 1963 in the sense that most of us, if we were alive at the time, remember where we were when the tragic events happened ---- the attacks on America by al Qaeda, the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, respectively. On September 11, 2001 I was in seminary at St. Charles Borromeo in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, having just entered a week or two earlier. It was a unique morning for us seminarians, because we were getting on busses to go to the funeral of one of our fellow seminarians who had just died of a serious illness. As I was getting on the bus, one of the other seminarians was telling us that he was just watching television and heard something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Over the course of the day, we heard more about this, in bits and pieces: that a plane crashed out in Pennsylvania, that all major cities were taking major security measures, that all airplanes were being told to land, and that all schools in Philadelphia would be closed the following day. America was under attack. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. Eventually we learned that a terrorist group called al Qaeda orchestrated the attacks. Several days after 9-11, President George W. Bush told all Americans at a joint session of Congress to “live your lives, and hug your children.” He asked for our calm, patience and “continued participation and confidence in the American economy.” He asked for prayers for victims and their families and for those in uniform.
A day or two after 9-11, the seminarians at St. Charles had a meeting with then Archbishop of Philadelphia Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua. The Cardinal encouraged us to pray for our country. He also said something very powerful and moving that I will never forget. He told us that all the first responders who rushed into the Twin Towers to help and try to save their fellow man were martyrs. He was confident that they were all in Heaven. He said that they lived out the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Coming from a cardinal I was deeply moved by his words; as those first responders were climbing the stairwells up the towers to try to save people, they were actually climbing up to the place of their eternal rest with God.
As you know, this past Wednesday evening President Obama gave an address to the nation in which he said that America is going to lead an international coalition to fight ISIS, the 15,000 member terrorist group located in Iraq and Syria. Thirteen years after 9/11, our nation is still fighting against radical jihadists and terrorists who hate the United States of America and the West more broadly. The President said that we will fight them militarily and will continue to fight through diplomatic and economic means as well. Each of us should pray for our country at this time as well as pray for those who are suffering in the Middle East. Just this past weekend at our parish we also took up a second collection of over $6800 at all of our Masses to help Christians in the Middle East who are currently being persecuted.
Ultimately the type of war/conflict that we are involved in will not be won by military means, as necessary as those might be to protect innocent people, but by a spreading of the civilization of life and love, by the continual spread of the Gospel, by being ‘missionaries of charity.’
Today my thoughts and prayers are, in a special way, with those of you in our parish who lost loved ones or friends on 9/11. May you continue to experience healing as you continue to try to move on from that terrible day. Please remember all who have answered our nation's call to duty, especially: Corporal Kyle C. Abbott, PFC Jonathan Bussi, Major James Dunphy, Lt. Lauren Eanes, Sergeant Douglas M. Eckert II, Corporal Steven M. Edwards, 2nd Lt. Charles Garlisi, Lance Corporal Michael Garlisi, 1st Lt. Nick Guarraggi, Sergeant Michael Joy, Staff Sgt. Ryan McSorley, Sergeant John Lawrence, Lance Corporal Christopher Mitchell, Corporal Christopher R. Singer, and 1st Lt. Patrick Whitty. My prayers today are also with the men and women in our parish who serve as first responders: firefighters, police and EMS personnel. Your service to our community saves, protects and enriches all of our lives. Your heroic deeds ‘do not go unnoticed’ by us here at St. Gregory’s.