The Catholic University of America

9/11 Mass Homily
Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., Catholic University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry
Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center
Sept. 11, 2011

What shall we speak of tonight on an anniversary of which orators and song writers have created such resounding speeches and lyrics poems and prayers?

Shall I speak to you about the 3,000 innocent men, women and children from 90 countries who lost their lives at the hands of 20 terrorists? Shall I speak to you about a mastermind who hijacked a sacred ancient faith and made it into an instrument of mass destruction? Who like masterminds before him played on the alienation of young people of his culture to create killing machines?

Or shall we remember the young girl whose plane was driven into the Pentagon? Or the innocent children in Afghanistan and Iraq who have also been the “collateral damage” as the result of wars and sectarian violence birthed on that fateful day 10 years ago?

Shall we recall the school children near ground zero being rushed to safety or the millions of other American school children who lost so much of their childhood and security that day? (I think I am looking at many this evening.)

Is this the appropriate time to remember Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar of Father Jim’s community and chaplain to New York firefighters who lost his life caring for one of the fallen that day; or, is this the time to speak about the bravery, courage, faith, exhaustion of New York clergy and mental health professionals from around the country who cared for the living in the days that followed?

Is this the time to remember the priests, rabbis, imams who buried their dead in the five boroughs, in Connecticut, in Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, in Washington D.C. and other American cities and towns in the weeks and months that followed? Can we forget those congregations whose members’ bodies were never found to bury?

Do we forget the firefighters, the women and men of the police forces, the construction workers, the doctors, the nurses, the EMTs who rushed to the scene that day in a Pennsylvania field, the Pentagon in Virginia or to a “ground zero” in New York City and stayed in those places for days looking for the living, finding the dead, and answering the cell phones of victims whose relatives kept calling them, refusing to give up hope?

Shall we speak of the men and women in the Pentagon or the Trade Centers who would not leave co-workers behind that day? Those who refused to allow peers in wheel chairs to remain trapped regardless of the danger to themselves? Shall I forget the four men who picked up a young woman named Clare who was eight months pregnant and how they carried her down seven flights in the towers and didn’t put her down until they were near a bridge leading out of Manhattan?

Shall we recall the immigrants – both in this country legally and illegally – who worked in the restaurants of the trade center, who cleaned the bathrooms and corridors and offices? Shall we not pray for their children who sometimes are looked upon as, “the other” – “the other” who is different – “the other” who speaks a different language – “the other” who dresses differently – shall we not pray for them and those who look upon them with fear and disdain?

On this day of remembrance shall we forget the soldiers who have given their lives these past 10 years in wars not of their making? Shall we forget the bright eyed college graduates of ROTC programs who came back from those theaters of war without limbs, with scars so deep that many will never be the same? Shall we not remember their parents, their spouses, their children who have sacrificed so much in these ten years?

As we gather in this space to remember and to worship, can we forget the nation’s most powerful house of worship – the metal beams that rose up from the ashes of ground zero to form the cross of Christ? An open air cathedral where Masses were celebrated and prayer groups formed for months by those who worked for months at ground zero.

Yes, on yearly anniversaries and especially on significant ones like today, we shall not forget. We shall not forget.

And, yet, my dear brothers and sisters, in our daily living we can forget. In our uncharitable treatment of others we can forget. In our lack of forgiveness and by the violence we inflict by gossip, by anger, and by force towards others who are weaker – we can forget. When we are selfish and petty; when we fear the other – the one who is different than me – we forget.

When we despair or give up hope – we forget. When we do not search for Christ in the ashes of our heartaches, our disappointments, our failures, our doubts - we forget.

When we fail to honor and worship God who is the source of all life and who draws us into the mystery of His love for us by the life death and resurrection of his beloved, Son, Jesus Christ – we forget.

So tonight we remember but let us also speak of tomorrow with a renewed commitment to love, to honor, to forgive others. Let us remember that when the terrible events of life make no sense we must turn to Christ who weeps and mourns with us and then calls us rise to live in hope once more. We must remember the men and women who have gone before us and their example of heroism, sacrifice and faith so that we may become the men and women of new generation of faith.

We remember not for remembrances sake but as builders of a new day, a new creation, a new edifice of worship – an edifice not of mortar and brick, not of steel and concrete but a living structure of the human heart – open to forgiveness, grateful for freedom, filled with hope in the Christ who through us continues the work of redemption.

What this day of remembrance allows us to do is to reflect, to recall tragic events and to give thanks for the men and women and children whose stories give us proof of the best of human virtue. This anniversary is a call to live in faith, in forgiveness, and in the truth that the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our life, our destiny our hope as human beings and specifically as Christians. And, we know in the marrow of our bones that no man, no group, no government, no ideology, no attack by terrorists can ever rob us of our freedom to believe in Christ, to hope in Christ, to forgive in Christ, to live in Christ.

NO my friends – we shall not forget, we shall always remember and we shall build a future of hope in the power and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.