Lessons from Disaster

On a Tuesday morning seventeen years ago I was sleeping-in at college. I had no classes that morning so I stayed in my dorm room bed as late as possible, peacefully unaware. I eventually descended from my loft and turned on the TV. The Catholic channel (EWTN) showed people praying in the chapel “for the bombing victims.” Then my roommate walked in and asked me if I’d heard. “Airplanes crashed into the World Trade Towers and the Sears Tower in Chicago. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, a car bomb blew up at the State Department, and there’s a fire on the National Mall.” Standing there, I realized I would remember that moment for the rest of my life, just as others vividly remembered the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President Kennedy before me.

It’s striking how much confusion there was on September 11, 2001. Most of what my roommate had told me proved inaccurate. Terrible things had certainly occurred – the murder of thousands and the distressing of millions more – yet the news of that day was clouded with false rumors and inaccurate reports. Time would clarify the truth of what had actually happened.

Eager to help in the days after the towers fell, I went to give blood at a Red Cross drive. I waited perhaps an hour until my turn came to have my finger pricked for the pre-donation iron test. Being uncomfortable around blood, I became woozy, had to lay down, and left without contributing anything. Despite my failed effort, others across the country donated more than enough to meet blood supply needs for months.

The shocking evil of September 11th impressed upon me humanity’s brokenness. Even if these terror groups abroad were answered with overwhelming military force, I grasped that what was wrong with the world would remain unrepaired. When I considered what would be the greatest thing I could do to help change the world and myself for the better, I concluded it was to begin attending weekday Mass. My class schedule did not permit me to go every day, but daily Mass grew me and my love for Jesus in the Eucharist. It helped me to embrace my priestly vocation and did good beyond myself that I believe God will reveal to me someday.

These lessons from 9-11 are applicable today. It is heart-breaking to be confronted by these recent scandals in the Church, but remaining unaware of them (asleep to them with eyes closed) would not have made them any less real. It is better that things be clearly understood in purifying daylight. Great evils and crimes have obviously been perpetrated. Thousands have been hurt and millions have been distressed. Yet we must be cautious to weigh all early reports carefully, for their truth will only be fully known with time. We want to improve the situation in the Church but there may be little you and I can do within our immediate influence. We are not popes or bishops or journalists, but we have access to a power beyond our natural reach. I urge you, in this troubled time, to draw closer to Jesus in his sacraments and our daily prayer. This is the greatest thing we can do to help change the Church, the world, and ourselves for the better.

One Response to “Lessons from Disaster”

  1. Anne Says:

    Very Nice Father Victor!

    Miss you down here at St.Wenceslaus!

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