The Catholic University of America

CUA Holds Mass of Commemoration for the Victims of September 11, 2001

Hundreds of Catholic University students, faculty and staffed filled a standing-room-only Crypt Church in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Monday, Sept. 11, 2006, to mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a memorial Mass honoring the lives of those who perished, including CUA alums, relatives and a faculty member, law school lecturer Karen A. Kincaid.
Those in attendance filled out cards with the names of loved ones who perished that day, so the names could be presented along with the offertory gifts. A steel cross crafted by a New York City firefighter from debris found at the World Trade Center's first tower rested on the middle of the altar during the Mass.

Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, presented the homily for the Mass, which can be read in full below.

"Today is a day to remember and what we recall is, perhaps, the most horrible memory that will be borne by this generation - please God there will never be another like it," Father O'Connell said. "Some things we will never forget but it is only forgiveness that brings healing to our wounds, even those that leave a scar. And it is healing that brings hope, even when terror threatens us still. And it is hope that leads us to love and to live again, today tomorrow…and forever."

To view the Mass via streaming video, visit http://digitalmedia.cua.edu/calendar/event_dsp.cfm?event=3304.

The Catholic University of America
Mass of Remembrance
On the Fifth Anniversary of September 11, 2001

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington, D.C.
September 11, 2006

"It was a day like many other days, that Tuesday morning in September five years ago today: bright sunshine, blue skies, and pleasant temperatures. It was one of those days you were just happy to be alive. We were beginning our day here on campus only a week or so into the new semester. People in New York City, at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania were just getting their day started, too, probably not worried much about anything. It was September 11, 2001, just another day.

Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president

But then, at 8:46 a.m., the day changed. The world changed. History changed. We who were alive that morning changed at 8:46 a.m., September 11, 2001. And five years later, we who were alive and who were changed that morning will never forget that day.

Every generation seems to have a day like that. For our grandparents, our parents, perhaps for some few of us, December 7, 1941, was such a day. Things changed. For others, for many of us, November 22, 1963, or April 4, 1968, were such days. Things changed. But for every one of us here, September 11, 2001, will be the moment when this generation, intermingled with other generations, changed forever.

And so we come together to remember and to pray, as those of us - students, faculty and staff - who were here five years ago, did at this very same moment in this very same holy place. We bow our heads again, we drop to our knees once more. We hold up those whose lives were lost, so many thousands. We hold up those whose losses can never be measured, so many more thousands as the lines of loves lost, are multiplied by families and friends and colleagues. We hold up our nation and everyone whose lives were changed that fateful day.

The twisted steel and crumbled concrete have been carted away, the dust and smoke and ash are long gone from New York City. The walls of the Pentagon have been restored. The grass has grown over that field in Pennsylvania. Through the misty visions and smoky memories of that September day, in the deepest parts of our very souls on this September day, God speaks his word to us once more.

The first reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans highlights some of the differences that exist among us: differences in opinions, differences in practices, differences in approaches to life. And, in the face of those differences, St. Paul invites us to extend our welcome to one another, "not for disputes over opinions" but for the Lord. Easier said than done. Differences are not easy to accept, whether they are insignificant and superficial or of major consequence. Differences are not easy to accept when they reflect the color of our face, or the place of our birth, or the variety of our language. Differences are not easy to accept, especially when they define our relationship with God and, because of that, our relationship with one another, for better or for worse. How many battles and how much pain has been inflicted because of our differences, real or perceived? How many wars have been fought, how many lives have been lost in the name of God and our different religions? And yet, in the ash or the rubble or the burning grass of that first "9/11" as we now call that day, we saw yet another difference: the difference between hell and heaven. We stood on the edge of hell and as we looked into its bowels and smelled the acrid smoke of pure evil we also saw something else, something different rise from dust, those who linked arms, without regard to color or religion or place of origin to reach out, to save and to embrace their fellow man. "None of us lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." And Christ's words echo in our ears:

"Whatever you do to or for the least of my brethren, you do to or for me." And so it was that September morning five years ago, and two thousand years before it. And so it is today.

As hard as it was for first and second and third responders to pull the living and the dead from the utter destruction of those first hours and in the days and weeks after that plane hit the first tower, the hardest part was yet to come as weeks became months and months, years. The Gospel of St. Matthew brings that hardest part to light. "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him, as many as seven times? Jesus answered, 'not seven times but 77 times."

Today is a day to remember and what we recall is, perhaps, the most horrible memory that will be borne by this generation - please God there will never be another like it. But in our memory of something so painful and of so great a wound upon our nation's heart and soul and body, it is to that wounded heart and soul and body that the Gospel speaks today, "not seven times" but over and over and over again, "77 times." It is not just time that heals all wounds - whether five or 50 years have passed. Some things we will never forget but it is only forgiveness that brings healing to our wounds, even those that leave a scar. And it is healing that brings hope, even when terror threatens us still. And it is hope that leads us to love and to live again, today tomorrow, "77 times" and forever.

The greatest gift, the most difficult gift; the greatest offering, the most difficult offering that we could give in memory of those who gave their lives on September 11 is to pray with Jesus at the moment of his own greatest and most difficult suffering on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Someone said to me recently that this is a difficult message for "mere mortals" to accept. That is true. But we, mere mortals, are called by Christ to immortality and his message of forgiveness, like the cross itself, is the path he gives to immortality and life eternal.

Every generation, whether it has suffered a December 7, or a November 22, or an April 4, or a September 11, must forgive from the heart and heal and hope and love. And every generation, from the first to the last, must give an account of that forgiveness and healing and hope and love to the Lord who holds us in his arms today as we remember."

Very Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M.
President


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Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600, harrisoc@cua.edu
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600, leect@cua.edu