Bulletin (September 23, 2001)

Thank you for your donations to last Sunday’s two-bit collection for “Disaster Relief.” A total of $4502.52 were given at our seven weekend Masses. Obviously many people gave above and beyond their normal contribution when they heard the collection would go to aid those affected by the terrible tragedies of September 11. I was particularly touched when a young couple wrote a check for $500. The donations will be sent via our archdiocesan Missions Office to Catholic social service agencies, partnering with disaster planning offices.

This special collection came on the heels of the appeals for Build Hope and the Dominican Mission Foundation to which you also responded in a beautiful manner. In this case the devastation to people’s lives is so enormous that what matters even more than financial assistance is the prayers and concern it represents. The September 11 events changed not only the lives of victims’ families, but of our nation and world. How we respond may well determine our world’s course for coming decades. For that reason prayer is more urgent than ever.

In some ways these tragedies project on a very large screen the smaller tragedies of our everyday lives. We felt that here in Holy Family with the death of Patricia Butler. So many people have told me how much they admired her for her talents and her personality. The accident which took her life was so tragic. Our prayers go out to Pat Butler and their three daughters.

Such tragic events naturally cause people to raise questions about God. I do not have any easy answers. This week I was re-reading parts of C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. He wrote it after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. Here are a few paragraphs:

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel his claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be -- or so it feels -- welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

I tried to put some of these thoughts to C. this afternoon. He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: "Why hast thou forsaken me?" I know. Does that make it easier to understand?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, "So there's no God after all," but "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer."

Our elders submitted and said, "Thy will be done." How often had bitter resentment been stifled through sheer terror and an act of love -- yes, in every sense, an act -- put on to hide the operation?

Of course it's easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent -- non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it quite frankly, we don't ask for him?

Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, C. S. Lewis experienced moments of great darkness, of even feeling the absence of God. But like her did not despair. He did not allow his grief to turn him from what, in the deepest part of his soul, he knew to be true. For those looking for some helpful reading during this time, I would like to recommend not only Grief Observed, but also Lewis’ subsequent (and final) book Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer.

Speaking of prayer, I wish to renew the invitation to Eucharist Adoration. To spend an hour before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament is the very best thing you can do for our nation and for yourself and your family. When we began Perpetual Adoration last Lent, the response was overwhelming. Unfortunately, the fervor of some slacked off. Now is the time for all of us to renew our efforts.

Because of these events, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee has recommended to me that we give a little bit more time before launching this project. The impact of what is happening – emotionally, politically, economically, etc. – is just too large right now. What they recommended is devoting a more intense time to prayer, reflection and to our personal and family relationships. On October 11 we will have a One Month Mass for eternal rest of those who died in the terrorist attacks. The Mass, to be celebrated at 7 p.m., will include parts in English, Spanish and Filipino.

This Friday, at 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. we will celebrate Mass in honor of St. Lorenzo Ruiz. Following is a prayer in times of adversity asking his intercession:

Beloved Saint Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, you who experienced the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom for the proclamation of the Christian faith, inspire us with your strength and firmness of conviction to withstand the adversities of our lives and the difficulties of our existence. Teach us with your marvelous example and saintly wisdom to turns trial into blessings, by showing us the glory that comes from discovering the redemptive power of God's love.

When times are full of grief, when moments are suffused with worry, let us feel your presence in our midst, so that we will be aware that you are by our side, strengthening us and interceding for us before Almighty God that we may have patience in our sufferings and consolation in our hardships. Help us realize that only in knowing our weakness can we be strong, only undergoing sadness can we find real happiness, and only passing through trials and distress can we find peace, encouragement and spiritual joy. Amen