SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Nineteen years ago, this past Friday, the United States and indeed the entire world was dramatically changed by the murderous actions of those bend on causing pain and suffering in their effort to make a statement. As thousands of innocent people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and attempts upon other sites, we were left with questions about what kind of hatred could cause such killings. In the 19 years since those attacks, the world has seen thousands of others killed or injured in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and so many other places in our world. Many people believe that the only response to such barbarous actions is to retaliate with weapons and arms.
While no nation can stand by and watch their citizens killed or injured without some appropriate response the deeper question for Christians and all people of goodwill is to ask what should be our response in the long-term? What causes people to believe that the only action open to them is the senseless killing of innocent men, women and especially children? What leads even our fellow citizens to shoot into innocent folks gathered on their porch enjoying one another's company? How can we even attempt to find any meaning in those who use assault weapons (which are only meant to kill others) to kill and maim innocent children in school as they and their teachers seek to gain more knowledge? What should be the response of Christians to such evil actions? I must confess, I do not have any easy answers but when I hear politicians advocating the wholesale destruction of others I wonder what should be our response as Catholics?
In the past couple of years, we have heard many words and promises from our politicians about various ways to run our country. In this election year certain politicians are spreading fear, half-truths and even hate as they say that if we don't vote for them then our country will cease to exist! In light of the many serious and significant issues facing all of us in this country, it might be well to not forget how and why the USA was established. Our country was founded upon the principles of being a democracy. And as the founding fathers of the country made clear in the system of government they established…… to govern the country and our state we must be willing to hear the other side, be willing to compromise if we have to and then work together for the good of ALL people and not just a select chosen group.
As we recall the terrible events of September 11, 2001, may it remind us that freedom is never free and that the work of our nation is the task of all of us. While we have a right and an obligation to defend and protect our country and our citizens, it must be based on freedom and justice for all. The USA, from our beginning, has been a nation of many different people, cultures, languages, faiths and opinions. We must never forget that this country has always been a nation of diversity and tolerance. May we endeavor to always protect that part of our Constitution.
When Pope Emeritus Benedict visited Ground Zero in New York in 2008 he prayed, “God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events. Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strength us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among the nations and in the hearts of all.”
Pope Francis in speaking to the US Congress on September 24, 2015 said, “Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).
If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.”
Our task today is to live and support the great ideals that gave birth to the United States of America. As Catholics, we are called to work and ensure that those ideals are never hindered by anyone and that we are always faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we all know we are sure to be bombarded with political ads, speeches and promises in the coming months. I strongly encourage you learn more about our political process. The League of Women Voters is a civic organization in the United States that was formed in 1920 to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote. Today the organization provides important information about voting and various stances of all candidates. The US Bishops Conference has published an informative brochure regarding our responsibility for our country. You will find the brochure, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States on the US Bishops web site.
Pope Francis reminds all members of the Church of our responsibility to protect the common good. He said in 2013, "We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern."
If you are not registered to vote then please register to exercise your right as a citizen to help guide our country and VOTE! If you are registered to vote then make plans now of how you will vote in the November election, whether by mail, early voting, absentee ballot or in person at your voting place.
Because of restrictions in effect during Holy Week the annual collection for the Shrines in the Holy Land was not able to be conducted. Pope Francis has asked that the collection be taken up this weekend (September 13, 2020) throughout the entire Church. Money raised through this collection helps support the maintenance of the Shrines in the Holy Land, the pastoral ministries in the Holy Land and education for more than 10,000 students who attend schools conducted by the Franciscans in the Holy Land. Funds also help pastoral care of Christians and others in the war-torn areas of Syria. The collection helps provide food and shelter for many refugee families fleeing fighting and war in various countries of the Middle East. On behalf of our Franciscan friars working so hard in the Holy Land I thank you in advance for your generosity.