Friday, September 9, 2011

Nine Eleven and the Cross

          Nine Eleven. Words that now have a definite meaning in the English speaking world. Even in my own country, where the month and date are written in the opposite order, we know what 9/11 means.

          Nine Eleven. An event that changed America and the world. I’m sure everyone can recall what they were doing at the time. I was on my way home from the funeral of a priest - Father John Daly - who had had a deep effect upon me and my family when I was a young boy. Quite possibly I owe my vocation in large part to him. As a newly ordained priest he consecrated our home and family to the Sacred Heart, he taught me how to serve Mass, he frequently visited unannounced and blessed images and Rosaries… I had decided not to have the car radio on but to drive home in silence. When I got home the Chair of the parish council phoned me and referred to ―terrible events in America‖ and then moved on to the matter he wanted to discuss. Then a friend phoned and asked if I had my TV on and whether I had seen the planes hitting the twin towers, and had I heard the news of the plane that hit the Pentagon. I hadn’t. There and then, while still on the phone, I switched the TV on and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

          Today will be a day of much remembering, a day of thoughtful reflection, a day for prayer. It is regrettable that public prayer has - at least at the time I write this - been excluded from the acts of remembrance that will be held at Ground Zero. Prayer is instinctive to man. I bet that many who considered themselves non-religious found within themselves the desire to pray on 9/11.

          On the occasions when I have visited New York City, I have always tried to pay a visit to Ground Zero. It feels like a pilgrimage that one must make when one is so close to a place of such tragedy. It is a place where one asks how such an event could have been conceived in the hearts of men. It is a place where one realizes how quickly what man builds can be destroyed. It is a place where one makes contact with the lives of the individuals who lived and worked and died in that place, and where one ponders the heroism of so many who took part in - and lost their lives in - the rescue efforts. It is a place where one prays for those who died and who lost loved ones. It is a place where one prays that enmity between human beings will cease, that we may all be one in Christ who "is all and in all."

          It is also a place where I find the spirit of America. In visiting the memorial center nearby, I was touched to learn how, whenever a dead body - or what was left of one - was found in the rubble, work would stop, people would be silent, the American flag was laid over the remains on the stretcher, and a moment of prayer was observed: great dignity in the midst of grief.

          The bulletin cover today carries the image of the Cross-shaped steel beams that were found in the rubble or the World Trade Center, as if the Lord wanted to remind everyone - and the world - that His Son had already taken upon himself the suffering and death of all involved in this event. It was from the Cross that the Lord uttered his prayer for forgiveness for those who "know not what they do."
          Tomorrow (Monday 12th) I join 27 other priests from the diocese for a retreat at Marygrove Retreat Center. The retreat will be preached by Father Benedict Groeschel CFR whom most people will know through his appearances on EWTN or his books. I’m sure you will keep your priests in your prayers.
God bless you. Fr John.


  1. A beautifully measured memorial, Father. In remembrance I pray for all the souls, including those of the perpetrators.
    I pray daily, too, for those brave Christians still living precariously in the lands which spawned the bombers.
    And I pray for the protection of the cradle of Christianity.

  2. This is from Class 9A DE La Salle College Belfast, and these are their comments which they are dictating about this blog.
    Darren says "Seeing the Cross is wonderful"!
    Padraig - "This is very moving "-Anthony "Loves the way you wrote the story "- Christopher thinks it's amazing how you had the radio turned off and knew nothing about it! - Shaun thinks it's amazing how you were at Fr Daly's funeral and how you will never forget Fr Daly's anniversary,
    Odhran loves the bit were the workers stopped to pray when they found the remains and stopped to remember the dead.
    Conal loves how the cross has what looks like robes / garments on it
    Gerard whom you prayed for is here and wants to thank you very much!
    Thank you father we all loved your blog!
    We Prayed for you in class 9A
    Typed up by Ryan

  3. Thanks Class 9A for your comments. I shall remember you all at Mass in half an hour's time. God bless you and your teacher.

  4. 9A back again - We say Thank you Father for remembering us in your Mass.We know that this side of heaven there is no greater gift.
    9A also want to know is being a priest fun?
    We and other classes now want to read lots of your blogs - from now on.
    Many Thanks 9A
    Typed up by Brogan!

  5. Thanks 9A.

    Is being a priest fun? Is being married fun? At times it's fun, at times it's demanding. But always fulfilling. The priesthood is the most wonderful vocation on earth (well, I would say that since I'm a very happy - if not funny - priest!)


Please avoid being 'anonymous' if at all possible.


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