CUA Remembers: A Vigil of Hope
Remarks by Brian Fox
Graduate Student Association President
“Why We Remember . . . “
“When I got home from work last Tuesday afternoon, in a state of shock and wordless grief, I took out my copy of Butler’s Lives of the Saints. I was looking to see if any guidance or wisdom could be found within its pages and so I turned to the entry for September 11th to see whom the Church remembers on that day. The entry for last Tuesday commemorated two third century martyrs, who, as Butler’s informs us “are honoured among the most illustrious martyrs that ennobled Rome with their blood.” To be honest, my first reaction was one of disappointment; I did not find this entry about death and blood to give me much solace after what had occurred. But after putting Butler’s back on my shelf I happened to notice the Liturgical calendar on my wall. What caught my eye was that this past Saturday was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, on which day we remember Mary’s grief and sorrow at the foot of the Cross.
When I pondered this, an important recognition began to dawn on me, one that can so easily be forgotten but that we, as Christians, are called on to always remember. What I recognized is how essential remembered suffering is to the life of the Christian. The liturgical calendar on my wall, the cult of martyrs detailed in Butler’s, the very Mass that we celebrate together each Sunday, what are they if not in significant part calls to remember the suffering of this world and the pain that man can inflict on man. The blessed Eucharist itself is the most vivid and important means by which we recall and commemorate suffering, that of our Lord and Savior. The priest speaks to us the words of Christ every Sunday, “do this in memory of me.” Obviously then, memory and remembered suffering is extremely important to the living of a Christian life.
I was asked to speak about why we remember, why we are here to remember the horrible events of the past week. My first response was to question how we could do otherwise than remember? How could we possibly forget the images of terror and devastation wrought upon our country, on fellow Americans, and as we are about to hear, people that we know and love? We seem to have no choice but to remember as our shock turns to mourning and disillusionment. So why do we remember that which pains us, that which fills us with sorrow? I would say that we gather here tonight to remember because of those words of Christ we hear every week, “do this in memory of me.” It is what Christians do, we remember the suffering of others as well as our own pain.
But this is only half of the answer and not the most important half at that. We Christians are not morbid people. We remember the blood of our martyrs, Mary’s sorrows, and Christ’s Passion not because we cannot get over the past but because of the great hope which the past reveals to us. The meaning of suffering has been changed absolutely by Christ. We do not only have Good Friday but we have Easter Sunday as well.
It has been written that “the Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” We need to dwell on that a moment. I will repeat it, “the Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings (OUR suffering, OUR grief, OUR pain right here right now) might be like His.” At a time like the present, a time when the earth seems steeped from crust to core with human tears, with human suffering, and with human fears we need to remember such a truth. We can find comfort in such a truth. Christ destroyed the hold that death and fear, evil and suffering have on us. The gates of Hell shall not prevail; death is not the final word. In the words of St. Paul, “I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.”
So why do we come together tonight to remember? It is in our common memories and grief that we will make sense of what has befallen us and our nation. It is in talking together and praying together that we gain in courage and in hope. C. S. Lewis wrote that “when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” Oh, how blessed are we that we can find all three present amongst us right now in our memories and our actions here tonight.
We take courage from the examples of those brave rescue workers that have been risking their lives, many of them losing their lives in the process of saving others. We take courage from the heroic example of those passengers on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania who, when they realized that they were going to die, did not lose themselves to despair nor cling to life, but rather acted selflessly to ensure that they would not be used to kill others. We take hope in the human sympathy expressed here tonight. If you look to your left and to your right what you see are your brothers and sisters sharing in your grief. We stand and mourn as one community. And as for “the least tincture of the love of God” which is most effective in easing our suffering, we have that here tonight as well, and in spades. We lit our candles from the Paschal candle which we usually only see at Easter time. That reminds us that Christ’s passion is eternal, his death and resurrection are real and present to us now, especially now as we grieve.
We have felt great fear this past week, take comfort, Christ was fearful in Gethsemane. We have cried many tears this past week, take comfort, Christ wept for Lazarus. We have been disillusioned by the events of this past week, do not despair, disillusionment is that which frees us from illusion, it is a liberation. Thus, we are freer this week than we were last week. We walk “not with the cross of the Savior behind [us] but with [our] own cross[es] behind the Savior.” “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” Oh, yes, God’s love is present here tonight.
So we remember. We remember those who have gone before us and we pray for the souls in Purgatory. We remember those loved ones we lost as they were special gifts of God and our community grieves with those they left behind. We remember those that will come after us and we pray that they might recognize our lives as having been lived as testimony to those who lost their lives this week. We remember because in doing so we recognize the love that God has for each and every single human being down to the smallest amongst us, the baby in the womb. We remember because in so doing we recognize our dignity and the dignity of every single human life. We remember to pray for our enemies, for those that hate us. We love their souls while despising their crimes. We remember . . . to love. “