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POPE PARISH VISIT ROME

By Jessie Arabik

As a kid, I would look at images of the Holy Family and wonder about St. Joseph.  Why did he always wear a chestnut brown coat, when he had that famous colorful cloak, the one that caused all the jealousy among his brothers?  Eventually I realized that was another Joseph, from another time in history.  A classic case of mistaken identity.  It’s an error which is more common than we might realize, especially these days.

How do we identify ourselves?  More importantly, how does God identify us?  Perhaps the answer to the second question can give us a clue as to what our answer to the first question should be.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it clearly:  we “have become children of God, partakers of the divine nature.”  If we have internalized that truth fully, and seek it live it out, then there are a lot of behaviors that suddenly are out of the question, eliminated as out of sync with that identity.

POPE AUDIENCE PROTECTING CHILDREN

Making decisions becomes easier when viewed through this lens.  Remember the popular bracelets that read, “What would Jesus do?”  They were effective because when we are searching for the right answer to a question, it can help to consider what Jesus would do in our place.   And considering what He would do confirms what we, who would wish to be like Him, should do.

When you walk through a mall or drive on our city streets or watch the news, sometimes you can wonder if the people in the world today realize they are children of God and part of the divine nature.  We don’t always act or speak or treat others like we believe it.  How do we bring back an awareness that how we act demonstrates who we are?

Somehow, as a culture, we must find ways to instill in our people the feeling that they are important and have a contribution to make which cannot be filled by any other person in the world.  We also must find a way to show our young people especially that they have a dignity that is God-given, that other people can try to diminish, but can never take away.

So, the next time you are handed a pen and a sticker that reads, “Hello, my name is…” maybe fill it in, “Child of God”.  It is absolutely accurate and says a lot more about you than anything else could.  Then let’s try to live up to that name.  A classic case of an accurate identity.

Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service

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By Father Paul Mooradd

Fear of God
Matthew 17: 1-9

Why do Peter, James and John,
Fall down very much afraid,
When God spoke from far and yon,
OF this pleasure displayed

Moments before they felt good
Happy to be in this place.
Now bowing low as they should
Daring not to see God’s face.

Unable to behold Him.
Creatures o Infinity.
Their lives only shadow’s dim.
Consumed in God’s love.

Reassured of being by Jesus’ gently touch.
They rise in simplicity, Enough, though not very much.

 

ORLANDO PRAYER VIGIL SHOOTING

The Living Give Life

A candle cannot sine in the face of the sun.
So how much less are we in the presence of God?
This is the race no man can win, but all must run.
That futile becomes our self-sacrificing prod.

All man claims against infinity mean nothing.
For we are dust and unto dust we shall return.
Only through self-sacrifice we to others bring.
Life. This its true purpose, each in the world must learn.

God breathed, that man in Him might become alive.
Now our true life, his self-sacrificing Spirit.
Shows we are always with God, and from him derive.
Life as love.Which is untrue, if we won’t give it.

We live only as we give what we received.
Indeed, having by forfeit must be believed.

 

Father Paul is a Maronite rite priest who serves in the Diocese of Springfield. Read more about him on iobserve.org.

BUTTERFLY TENNESSEE CHURCH

By Jessie Arabik

“Try to meditate on the love of God manifested in creation,” a wise priest once told me.  I thanked him for the advice but thought to myself that the topic would be exhausted in about three hours.  Well, that was 16 years ago.  But I always reflect more on this during summer and the growing season, especially when I drive by the corn fields each morning and mark the passing of time by how high the corn stalks are.

Creation is the ultimate “refresh” button.  Every morning, we get a chance to be a better person than we were before – more patient, more kind.  It can be difficult to give others a second chance and almost impossible to give ourselves a second chance.  But God forgives us and allows us to start over, so we should try to do the same.

Creation is tenacious hope.  My grandmother had a rose bush that looked awful – more brown than green, no blossoms.  I tried to get her permission to remove it, but no way was she giving up on that plant.  It didn’t produce one flower for an entire year; she still believed.  Walking by the flowerbed on the day she died, a single red rose bud caught my eye.  Coincidence, maybe, but it reminded me to never give up hope, even on that very sad day.

OKLAHOMA SUNRISE

Creation is infinite.  Every season, every day, every minute has a new beginning unfolding.  And it’s happening all over the world, in every country, in every town.  When I think of the problems in our world, I think of the babies being born today and pray that they will have the solutions that we haven’t thought of yet.  People who will have lifelong friendships are introducing themselves today.  The story of the world unfolds one moment at a time.

Creation is evidential.  It’s proof of God’s love.  Why else would He have created things that only have a use for us?  He doesn’t need the tides of the ocean or the beauty of freshly fallen snow.  Maybe lots of the things around us are the ways in which He is showing us how much He loves us.  Are we paying attention?

Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service

Recently 58 pilgrims returned home from a 12-day pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and other holy places. Not everyone will have that opportunity but being a pilgrim is still possible — even if it is just for a day. Jessie Arabik submitted a reflection on that theme and shares those thoughts on the diocesan blog. Others who would like to submit a blog should e-mail p.weber@diospringfield.org or r.drake@diospringfield.org.

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To walk from central France to Rome is about 300 miles, not an easy trip at all.   Probably it was even more difficult in 1902 when the writer Hilaire Belloc recorded the details of his pilgrimage in the book “The Path to Rome”.  He describes and draws the people, the scenery, and the local customs in elaborate detail.  He reflects on the surroundings and on the Christian faith that he treasured; it’s an excellent book that remains in print more than 100 years later.  But what makes a pilgrimage different than a mere journey?  Definitions differ, but perhaps a pilgrimage is a trip with a purpose; to understand something better – yourself, God, the world – or to silence the noisy world for a while.

There is plenty of summer left in New England and lots of pilgrimage opportunities available.  Most of these locations mentioned below are around an hour’s drive from Springfield.  Why not become a pilgrim for a day?  Here are a few tips on how you might become a local pilgrim.

  1. Choose a location. Perhaps you have a special devotion to St. Jane de Chantal, St. Joseph, St. Anne, St. or St. Faustina. Great!  The trip can help you enrich that devotion or foster a new one. Here are some suggestions:

Sisters of the Visitation Monastery in Tyringham, MA:  A community of contemplative nuns.

St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA:  A Trappist monastery in Central Massachusetts.

St. Anne’s Shrine in Sturbridge, MA: Visit the church, the outdoor shrines, and the icon museum.

National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA: Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

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     2. Leave the normal distractions of your daily life behind. It may be hard to imagine but try not to check Facebook, Twitter your e-mail or phone during your pilgrimage day. Maybe leave the radio off and try to immerse yourself in silence instead.

  1. Make time for prayer. Start the day with Mass at a local parish.  Or do a quick internet search on your destination and plan to attend a service once you arrive.  Ask God to show you where He wants you to grow and what things in your life He would ask you to change.  Bring Him any special needs for you, your friends, and the world.  In CCD, they taught, “Prayer is conversation – talking and listening to God.”  Most of us have the talking part mastered; try to focus on the listening part.

May we re-discover the power of pilgrimages.  Walking 300 miles is optional.

By Peggy Weber

IMG_8596Those familiar with social media know that there is a new term “FOMO.”  It means “fear of missing out.” It is defined as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

I have not experienced FOMO  but as a young girl I had a different kind of worry. I had “FOMA.”  This is not as well-known but it means “fear of Mary appearing.” I had often read of the young children and others who had the Blessed Mother appear to them and I always worried that she might show up and start talking to me. I would walk past the giant stature of Mary in my school yard and say hello. I  smiled and said a prayer, but I never wanted that statue to come to life or to see her in the lilac bush in my back yard. Oh, I wanted to be a good and holy girl but I did not want to deal with all of the difficult things that happened to those who were blessed with a Marian apparition.

For example, the children of Fatima, Jacinta ,7, Francisco, 9 and Lucia, 10 were questioned over and over by their parents and parish priest. As more and more people came to the site where Mary appeared the government grew uneasy.  On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator jailed the children. He interrogated and threatened the children to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. It is reported that Lucia’s  mother hoped the official could persuade the children to end the affair and admit that they had lied. Imagine how difficult it must have been for those youngsters. 

Bernadette Soubirous, who saw the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, was mocked and questioned about what she saw and even told not to return to the site where she encountered Mary.

And Juan Diego had to prove to the bishop that Mary was real. Thanks to a cascade of roses and the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on  his cloak he got approval, but of course it took courage for a poor man in Mexico to speak up to the bishop. He did, though, have Mary on his side.

It takes a lot courage to speak out about the faith. It is not easy to be holy. And as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother appearing at Fatima, let us applaud the courage of those who shared their blessing and withstood doubt, hardship and even prison. It is good that they didn’t have FOMA.

Weber is a former columnist for Catholic Communications. 

 

 

 

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The following is a reflection by Gail Waterman on her friendship and faith journey with a fellow Third Order Dominican.

On the day of Mary Hickson’s funeral Mass, Tuesday, October 25, 2016, a small group of Third Order Dominicans, Mother of God chapter, gather at the funeral home to convey our condolences to Mary’s only child, Michael, and to bid farewell to our dear sister, Mary. Michael commented that his mother was truly a dedicated member of the Dominican order.

Mary and I had grand times traveling together back and forth to the Dominican Monastery in West Springfield to attend Mass and our chapter meetings on the third Sunday of the month. Our chats would last the distance we traveled to the monastery. We chatted about current events and chapter activities and reminisced about the “good old days” in the Third Order chapter life. Gossip was never part of our conversations. When we returned to her house, she would get out of the car, turn around and sweetly say, thank you and whisper “I love you.” She would then put her hand to her mouth and glow a kiss to me. I would quickly respond, as I drove away, “I love you more.” We would laugh wholeheartedly, she knew I wanted to have the last word. Outwardly, she was a quiet, gentle woman but inwardly she was a very strong, Irish, Catholic woman. Mary celebrated her 91st birthday on Oct. 10, 2016.

Every year, on the first Sunday of the October, the Dominican Nuns have a Blessed Roses Prayer Service at their Monastery of the Mother God on Riverdale Street. This year, on October 2, Dominican Father Jacob Restrick, a visiting Dominican priest and former religious assistant for our chapter, presided at the service with Benediction, followed by a short talk, and blessing of the roses. A blessed rose is given to all who are there.

At the service, I went to the sacristy to tell Father Jacob that my sister and I were going to visit Mary Hickson at the Mont Marie Health Care Center in Holyoke. I wanted to bring a blessed rose to her and asked Father Jacob to write a short not to her on the Blessed rose prayer leaflet. He was happy to do so.

When we arrived, Mary was in her bed looking very uncomfortable and in distress. But upon seeing the blessed rose and note from Father Jacob, those beautiful blue, Irish eyes started smiling when reading the note. Father Jacob mentioned the “postcard collection” that both he and Mary had initiated. I am sure it brought back the memory of the day she brought a cardboard shoe box to him that was filled with her treasured postcards that had pictures and images of holy and sacred places from all over the world. She did not know what to do with them and did not want to throw them away. Father Jacob suggested that she start a collection of postcards and get the chapter involved, make it a chapter apostolate. It is now one of our chapter’s treasures. This was only one example of the many thought and generous activities that Mary was involved in.

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On October 12, 2016, I received a phone call from Kevin McClain, a member of our chapter, who was devoted to Mary Hickson. He told me that Mary was not doing well and was receive meds and nutrition via IV. A short time later, she was taken to Holyoke Hospital.Later, I received a phone call from Pauline Bacon, another member of our chapter who lives a short distance from where Mary used to live in Holyoke. Pauline wanted to tell me that she visited Mary ad all signs indicated that she Mary was closer now to our Blessed Mother who would soon be taking her to Jesus. She sat beside her bed and prayed the rosary out loud. While praying, Pauline wondered if a priest had been called to anoint her. Pauline went to the nurses’ station and the nurse reassured her that Mary had received her final anointing from her parish priest.

On October, 18, 2016, Our Blessed Mother came to Mary and quietly took her by the hand to meet Jesus face-to-face. That was the same day I had eye surgery at the eye clinic in Holyoke. Not knowing that Mary had passed on to eternal life, the thought crossed my mind several times to stop at the hospital and visit her but the final decision was that it was best not to do so and I continued my journey home. I was at peace with that decision. Mary passed away at about the same time I was having the surgery.

On Tuesday, October 25, chapter members gathered at the funeral home to pay our last respects and convey our condolences to her her son, Michael. When it was time to leave,  we stood before the casket and said our final goodbyes — till we meet again. She was clad in a lovely, pale blue and green floral, silk dress. She wore her lay Dominican scapula and a small black and white Dominican cross was pinned to it. Her light blue crystal rosary beads were thoughtfully arranged over her dainty, little hands. AS we stood silently gazing upon Mary’s lifeless body, knowing she was very much alive in the spirit, we all sang the Salve Regina — Marian antiphon. This was the first time we ever did anything like that — it was spontaneous. The hymn is sung at the conclusion of our chapter meeting ant at the end of the Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Following the viewing at the funeral home, our delegation of Dominican laity went on ahead of the procession to be at Blessed Sacrament Church in Holyoke. It is our tradition to form a “Guard of Honor” as the casket enters and leaves the church. As the casket was carried into the church and place at the foot of the altar the choir sang Mary’s favorite psalm – the 23rd — “The Lord is my Shepherd, the is nothing I shall want.”

Blessed Sacrament Church is one of the first round churches built in the United States,circa, 1960. In the center of the church is the altar. Above the altar is a large crucifix that hangs from a strong rope that reaches the dome of the church.

When listening to the readings, certain words seemed to resonate her entire life: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4)

The pastor began his homily by telling everybody the story that all seminarians hear. The  story is that every parish has a very pious woman who always goes to Mass on Sunday and weekdays. She is always doing good things and always spends a good deal of time in church praying, particularly the rosary. HE paused and then said that the story describes Mary.

Wen it came time to relieve the Holy Eucharist, we processed by Mary’s casket and I couldn’t help but pat the casket with my hand and sadly whisper, “I love you, dear Mary.” When I returned to the pew and tried to reflect and meditate on the wonderful significance of the Eucharist, I could not help but think of Mary again and suddenly lifted my head. My eyes gravitated to the crucifix above the altar. My eyes were fixated on Jesus, nailed to the cross, and I “heard” these words emanating from the body of Jesus, “I love you more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of gardens at papal villa of Castel Gandolfo

By Peggy Weber

Recently, Pope Francis announced he was giving something up.

No, it is not a lenten resolution. Rather, it is just following the style of a man who wants to live a simple life.

News agencies reported that he formally gave up his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, and opened it as a museum. Previously, he opened the gardens to the public but now most of it can be seen as of Oct. 21.

There is a special train service from Rome and so it boosts the economy of the town which often relied on visitors when the pope was in residence in the summer.

Pope Francis has not spent a night in this beautiful place that the Vatican has owned for 400 years. It is a clear message from the pontiff that this kind of life does not fit with his message of mercy and smelling like sheep.

His decision got me thinking. What can I give up — not for lent or even advent but for good? What could I do without that would remind me every day that I am trying to be a better person.

REFUGEES PASS THROUGH HUNGARY

I could try coffee but that would make everyone around me miserable. I tried one lent and it did not work.

However, is there something — even small — that would keep me focused on what matters in life.

I know people who do not eat meat on all Fridays as a way of making a sacrifice. However, I did not eat meat this twice this past week and did not give it a thought.

I could vow to do something every day, but I really like the notion of sacrifice.

I also know myself and realize that I lose steam on some of my resolutions. So for the month of November, in honor of All Saints and All Souls, I will give up playing games on my Kindle and computer. It might sound silly to some but often I spend an hour just fiddling with “crushing candy” or popping something. I usually do it while watching TV but I know I can do without them.

So what can you give up for a month or forever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Peggy Weber

The headlines are frantic and frequent. But they are not about two Mexican priests who were found murdered Monday, just hours after they were kidnapped from the low-income neighborhood where they served in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Few are talking about how the priests were abducted from their church.

Instead, the world seems obsessed to discuss the impending divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

It is sad news for that family, but the press might want to focus more on a more important topic, like the deaths of these two men who were working to help the poor in an area that reportedly is controlled by drug cartels.

They are not alone.

Sister Margaret Held, 68, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, and Sister Paula Merrill, 68, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, were found stabbed to death Aug. 25 in their Durant, Mississippi. They, too, were working to help the poor.

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And on Sept. 14, Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit while celebrating Mass in a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen. He was killed by youths caliming allegiance to the Islamic State. Pope Francis has declared Father Hamel a martyr.

St. Pope John Paul II tried to draw attention to the continuation of Christian/Catholic martyrdom During  Jubilee Year 2000, he wrote, “the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs.” He established a Commission on New Martyrs to collect testimonies from around the world. It includes the names of more than thirteen thousand Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant witnesses of the faith.

More and more names are added each day.

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Noted reporter John Allen wrote that between 2006 and 2010 “Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the center calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.”

If you google the topic “modern Christian martyrs” a staggering number of “hits” appear. One contains a list of hundreds of priests and nuns who have been murdered.

And everyone might think about what it might mean to be a martyr in this day in age. It was reported that the man who stabbed nine people at a Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota asked one person if he were a Muslim. What would you have answered if you knew your life would be spared? Would you be willing to join the list of martyrs?

The trend is real and something that needs attention – more attention than a Hollywood divorce.

 

 

 

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The following is the homily given by Springfield Bishop Emeritus Timothy A. McDonnell at the Chalice of Salvation Mass held at the Big E on Sept. 18. 

While there are 50 States in the Union, there are far more than 50 State Fairs for some States have more than one.  The most unusual, however, has to be right here at the Eastern States Exposition, the Big E, for it is not simply one State but six that call this

fair their own.  All the States of New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) are part of this one hundred year old exhibition and extravaganza.  And we come together this Sunday morning here under the tent, and through the wonder of television, to thank God for the blessings of the past 100 years, and to pause in gratitude for all that the Big E is and has been.  For it has been a respite from the pressures of everyday life, a chance to get away from the underbelly of shoddiness about which the prophet Amos warns in the first reading or the craftiness of the self-seeker Jesus describes in the Gospel.

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The Big E has been a chance for families and individuals to take to heart the call to “come apart and rest awhile.”  And while its acreage may be tough on the feet, the Big E has proven to be balm for the spirit over the years.

In 1916 it started, like so many State Fairs, as an agricultural event, a National Dairy Show, and to this day it has stayed true to its roots as a visit to the various farm exhibits will show. But so much more has been added over the years from the regional highlights of the individual State buildings to the Big Name entertainment to the circus, the Mardi Gras, and all the vendors especially those providing those Big E food specialties that can be found nowhere else.  I urge you to visit the Young building here on the Exposition grounds for an exhibit on the past one hundred years of the Big E.  It’s titled “A Century of Greatness” and, like just about everything here at the Big E, it exceeds expectations.

Think of all that the Big E stands for.  It is and always has been an opportunity to rest and relax, to enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere as we try to sample a worthy variety of the hundreds of attractions.  We know especially of the food for the stomach, there’s also been food for the soul.  For almost half its existence the Big E has arranged for the celebration of Mass every Sunday of its operation.  Twice each Sunday, an opportunity is provided so that Catholic exhibitors, volunteers, employees and guests can put God at the heart of their day.  And the tradition has arisen that on the first Sunday of the Fair, the Bishop of Springfield celebrates the Mass.  Today we’re expanding that tradition and substituting another bishop, yours truly, only because Bishop Rozanski cannot be in three places at once.  Don’t tell him, but I’m delighted I got to celebrate this Mass once again.

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For, like you, I come to the Big E each year with certain expectations.  I expect that there will be great exhibits, delicious food and outstanding attractions.  I come with a certain mindset, ready like you to enjoy myself– and each year I find expectations fully met and, more often than not, exceeded.

Today’s gospel is about expectations as well.  And it’s about expectations turned upside down. It’s not what we expect of God.

Our picture of God is influenced to some extent by our ordinary way of looking at things and that is why, as we listen to this gospel, we are tempted to react and wonder why Jesus seems to commend the dishonest steward.  For the dishonest steward, in order to gain an in with his master’s debtors, changed the IOU’s owed to his master, cheating the master of what he was rightfully due. Jesus tells us to be as astute in the things of God as the steward was in looking out for himself.  In other words, the Gospel today really challenges us to ask what it means to call ourselves Christian.  God entrusts each of us as stewards of his generosity, with unique gifts, unique opportunities, unique situations. The only request he makes is that we should each do our utmost to share his Good News with others before his return.

Today’s gospel is also a reminder of how we can forget that we have no claim to this world’s goods over and above our brothers and sisters at home or elsewhere. Creation and life itself are God’s gifts, given for all equally. We are entrusted with true wealth. Talents and work opportunities are not entitlements for selfish ends but rather make one responsible for building a better world for all. No matter how small is the contribution we make to our neighbor’s welfare, our neighbor’s welfare is our responsibility as followers of Christ.

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Look at the outpouring of support for the victims of the recent flooding in Louisiana, and the killer earthquakes in Italy and Myramar.  There was a need; people responded to it.  There was no question of who did or didn’t deserve help; there was a heartfelt realization that people were in need.  And, so, everything that individuals and communities could do was undertaken.  People reached out to help other people.

The point Jesus makes with the parable is that God’s generosity to us is meant to be shown to others if we are truly to serve God. And it is to be shown without stinting, without cutting back, without short-changing the gifts that God has given us that we might use them for love of God and neighbor.  Now that gives us pause since realistically we know our generosity is often tempered and not ongoing like that of God.  We don’t intend to forget those in need, but our attention span is limited.   Being human, we can forget the necessity for ongoing response.   Paradoxically, then, I’m going to ask you to remember that we shouldn’t forget.  Our generosity, like that of God, needs to be ongoing.

The Gospel is a challenge to be as generous as God is.  Before the Almighty we all stand like beggars; we haven’t earned our salvation; Christ died for it. Everything we have is a free gift of God’s love and mercy. We cannot explain his generosity, but one thing is certain – God’s ways are not our ways.  Our challenge is to make our ways more like his.

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In a real sense, learn from your experience here at the Big E.  Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the mood, note the way strangers are more at ease with one another, note the friendliness, note the pace of life where people saunter rather than scramble, and carry that lesson with you back to the everyday.  For it is a lesson that is truly in keeping with our challenge as Christians: to accept God’s generosity to ourselves and share it with our neighbor.

 

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By Father William Hamilton

Chaplain for  the Mass. State Police, Springfield Police Dept., Easthampton Police and Fire Depts., Agawam Fire Dept., and ATF, overseeing the New England Field Division

The morning started out like any other.  I was on retreat at Ender’s Island in Mystic, CT.  The air was crisp and clean.  The smell of the salt water permeated the air and the sky was a brilliant blue with no clouds in sight.

We were celebrating Mass in the Chapel when during the general intercessions, one of the workers came in and informed us that something was happening in New York; they thought a small private plane had hit one of the towers.  We immediately prayed for all involved not knowing how serious this event would become.

Upon completing Mass, we were invited into the retreat house to watch the news.  It was there that the full  scope of reality was laid upon us.  As we watched a second plane hit the towers.  Not private, they were commercial.  At that instant my pager for the Massachusetts State Police went off asking where I was and what my proximity to Headquarters was.  I was on my way home now to await further instructions.

Twin towers of New York's World Trade Center depicted in a stained-glass window at New York church

Fifteen years ago, we all watched in horror as what we knew of an American way of life, forever changed. Within the span of endless minutes, iconic towers tumbled to the ground planes crashed and the Pentagon attacked.  Thousands of lives were lost. A willed and hate- filled event by an ideology that has existed from the beginning of time stole the little innocence we had left.  A thought that somehow we cannot coexist together and share what is not ours has prevailed through the adverse actions of a few. However, there are still the masses of good people who would rather use, to the best of our abilities, what is for the common good.

Since that day, the moral fabric decayed, and unprecedented selfishness and entitlement have continued to grow in our land.  Hatred abounds, fear is copiously laid upon us and we are frequently reminded that we are no more secure or peaceful now, than we were on that bright September morning 15 years ago.

Fifteen years later, we gather once again, promising to remember and to never forget. The question before us is what are we remembering and what are we not forgetting?

Thousands died that day, who are still mourned and whose seats at the table are still empty.  Buildings were destroyed.  Planes were crashed.  Landscapes changed to burial grounds.  But now, they are a fleeting memory as where they once stood are quiet tranquil memorials and new testaments to humankind’s dauntless tenacity to rebuild bigger and stronger.

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Sadly, much of our collective memory remembers the horror, the hatred, the clouds of debris, the wailing of sirens and the crushing sounds of torn, twisted and melted steel.

Like the tranquil setting of Memorial Park and the new Trade Tower in New York,, would it not strengthen our resolve to remember that hatred is quenched  by mercy, vengeance gives way to forgiveness and peoples of different races, creeds, and cultures can and do join hands in friendship?

Fifteen years later we are compelled by history and a dignity that only few in this world enjoy, to stand for what is right, good and just.  Not living in fear or hatred, we strive to build a more fertile world, where all God’s children might live in true harmony and concord.  This, like the Memorial Park and the new tower, the field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, will be the legacy we leave to our children and our children’s children.  That the memory of that fateful day did not cloud our vision, or lower us to a standard that is not ours, but challenged us to rise to an occasion that helped usher in a new world order of peace, justice, equality, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, seeking out the least in our midst and raising them to a new heights of dignity.

YEAREND POPE U.S.

Let us pray then today for all victims of violence and terrorism around the world, and for their families, that they may find comfort and peace.

That the Governments and religious institutions may continue to provide care and healing for all, especially those affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001.

That national leaders may work together to address the problems that provide fertile ground for the growth of terrorism, and work together for an end to hatred and revenge  and lead us in ways of mutual respect and dignity for all – with the ability to establish the ultimate gift of justice which is mercy.

And so we Pray:

God of faithfulness, we come before you today filled with both sorrow and hope. We are in need of your grace to redirect our hearts. We are in need of the fire of your love to rekindle and sustain our passion for justice. We are in need of your wisdom that we might recognize anew your presence dwelling within us, calling us to live as children of light and hope rather than of darkness and fear.

Large American flag blows in wind outside Washington shrine on eve of anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Be with us in our prayer this day. Help us to truly believe, not only in your abiding presence within and among us, but in the power of our prayer to move mountains.

Receive graciously into your kingdom, our colleagues who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting, serving and preserving our freedoms.  Send your comforting spirit upon all who mourn their passing and fill them with the hope of your infinite love.  Give them rest from their labors for their good deeds go before them.  Give us who remain the assurances of faith and the resolve to continue their legacy in preserving life and true liberty by establishing your kingdom of justice, love and peace here and now, that we may fully experience on the day to come

All this we ask in the name of Jesus our brother, who shares our lives and yours, in the unity of the Spirit, one God, Forever and ever.  Amen.

Priest blesses a 17-foot-tall cross formed by steel beams and recovered from rubble left by 9/11 terrorist attacks