Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reflection: Pope's Prayer at Ground Zero

Since close to half of the residents of metropolitan New York are Catholics, it was inevitable that the response to a tragedy as great as the fall of the World Trade Center towers would often be expressed in the language of their faith.

It was expressed in the shrines that sprang up immediately after the attack on September 11, 2001 – quickly assembled collections of candles, statues of angels and saints, mingled with photos of the victims.

It was expressed in the haunting images – of the lifeless body of the beloved Fire Department chaplain Father Mychal Judge, of steel crosses amid the twisted wreckage.

It was expressed through the Catholic-tinged cultures of the New York City police and fire departments and in the funeral Masses of the rescue workers who were killed.

It was expressed through a mayor, a man who once had considered the Catholic priesthood, as he found words for unspeakable losses: "more than we can bear."

It was expressed in the music of Bruce Springsteen, an artist who, as Father Andrew Greeley has written, exemplifies the Catholic imagination. "Come on up for the rising," Springsteen sang. And: "May your faith give us faith/May your hope give us hope/May your love give us love." [Update: A song that Ronan Tynan performed during a concert before the papal Mass in Yankee Stadium.]

And now it has been expressed by the pope:

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace to all who died here –
the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

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,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI kneels in prayer after arriving at Ground Zero. Getty Images/Chris Hondros.

1 comment:

jmKelley said...

The Pope visited Ground Zero today and met the sister of the late FDNY chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, "the Saint of 9/11," the first official casualty of the attacks.

Mychal was considered a living saint by many even prior to his heroic death. His extraordinary works of compassion have been compared to Mother Teresa (see )

Ironically, Fr. Mychal Judge would be barred from the priesthood today because he was openly gay, though celibate. Benedict says that men like Mychal Judge are “objectively disordered.” Mychal often asked, “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love ?!”

We have no illusions that this pope is going to change. But most Catholics affirm two truths -- that God created and loves gay people, and that the pope does not speak for the whole Church, the Ecclesia, on these matters.

Indeed, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the pope’s homophobic views and support either civil unions or full marriage rights, according to numerous surveys.

As Fr. Mychal also said, "Don't let the (institutional) church get in the way of your relationship with God."