|Catholic News Service covered the CUA Memorial Mass for Sept. 11, quoting Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M ., university president, who offered the homily. Read the full story below.|
From: Catholic News Service Date: Sept. 12, 2006 Author: Mark Zimmerman WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just as they did on Sept. 11, 2001, students and faculty members of The Catholic University of America gathered together to pray on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Vincentian Father David O'Connell, president of Catholic University, noted that the community had again gathered in prayer at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, just as it had in the hours after the 2001 attacks.
"And so we come together to remember and to pray ... in this very same holy place," he told a crowd of 600 people, most of whom were students. "We bow our heads again, we drop to our knees once more."The priest processed into the shrine's Crypt Church holding up a small cross made of rebar, a steel reinforcing bar that is a component of reinforced concrete. The cross had been given to him five years ago by a firefighter who had been among the first responders to the World Trade Center.
The firefighter had crafted the cross from debris found at the site of the first tower that fell, and had left it for the priest after visiting the shrine on a pilgrimage. The priest placed the cross on the altar, where it rested during the Mass.
"Five years later, we who were alive and who were changed that morning will never forget that day, and our world will never be the same," Father O'Connell said.
He noted that each generation seemed to have such days of sadness, such as Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor; Nov. 22, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; and April 4, 1968, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered.
As students and faculty walked into the Mass, they were invited to write the names of loved ones who perished in the terrorist attacks. About 50 people filled out the cards, which were presented along with the offertory gifts.
Karen Kincaid, a lecturer at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, was among those killed when terrorists hijacked a plane and crashed it into the Pentagon.
Father O'Connell said that five years after the terrorist attacks, sorrow remained, even as the world has changed.
"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," he said. "Through the misty visions and smoky memories of that September day, in the deepest parts of our being on this September day, God speaks his word to us."
Sept. 11 offered a vision of both heaven and hell, the priest said. "We stood on the edge of hell and as we looked into its bowels of hell 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," he said.
Catholic University's president said that "the greatest gift, the most difficult gift" people can offer five years after the terror attack is to love and forgive as Jesus did.
"Every generation, whether it has suffered a Dec. 7, or a Nov. 22, or an April 4, or a Sept. 11, must forgive from the heart, so that he or she might heal and hope, and might live again and might love again," Father O'Connell said. "And every generation, from the first to the last, must give an account of that forgiveness and that healing and that hope and that love and that life to the Lord who holds us in his arms today as we remember."
Catholic University students from across the United States were united in prayer at the Mass.
"It's very important to remember those whose lives were taken, and to continue to pray for peace," said Schuyler Smith, an English and art history major.
Student Katie Bove, who is from Maplewood, N.J., said, "You can see the New York skyline from my town." But on Sept. 11, she recalled, "all you could see was dust."
Her uncle is a firefighter who went to New York that day to help. "The stories he told me of the devastation, I'll never forget," she said.
Kelly Szal, a freshman from Long Island majoring in media studies, said she had not been directly affected by the Sept. 11 attacks, but she came to "share my sorrows" with those who lost loved ones and to pledge that the victims will "never be forgotten."
"They'll never forget that day, and we shouldn't either," Bove said.
###2006 (c) Catholic News Service www.CatholicNews.com Reprinted with permission of CNS