Sacrifices of 9/11 and pandemic are a call to examine conscience, live differently

Laura Keener, Editor.

In the quiet, peaceful moments before Mass, a single candle glowed, Friday, Sept. 11, before an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows as she wrapped her mantel around the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center as smoke billowed from its top floors. The Oratory of St. Paul at the Diocese of Covington Curia was prepared for a memorial Mass on the 19th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.

Instead of the green vestments for Ordinary Time, Bishop Roger Foys, celebrant, and Father Jordan Hainsey and Father Michael Norton, concelebrants, wore purple vestments — the color of penance and sacrifice. The Mass was being offered for the preservation of peace and justice for all those who died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as for all those have died from COVID-19 and for all police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, nurses and doctors.

“Everyone here remembers where you were on that day when the planes hit the New York towers and the Pentagon and the empty field in Pennsylvania,” Bishop Foys said as he began his homily.

Bishop Foys described the days following the terrorist attack as days of “renewed enthusiasm and patriotism” with churches filled. “But the enthusiasm and patriotism and the coming together of our nation as one, our churches filled with prayers to the almighty, have passed,” he said.

The terrorist attack on our nation was and is, Bishop Foys said, “horrific and there can never be any justification for it. It was criminal, it was sinful.”

But he said, the terrorist attack, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, is an opportunity that calls for an examination of conscience “as a nation and as individuals.”

“What is it in our nation, in our life, in our lifestyle that would cause someone to do something so horrific?” he asked.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading, Bishop Foys said, “Jesus, in the Gospel message, said, why remove the splinter from your brother’s eye when you have a beam in your own? Remove the beam first from your own eye.

“When we point out someone else’s fault we don’t have to do anything, we don’t have to change. But when we look into our own consciouses and our own hearts for our own faults … it’s more difficult because we may have to change,” he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, Bishop Foys recalled Pope Francis addressing the people of the world from the balcony in St. Peter’s Square before an empty piazza, trying to make sense of the pandemic. He said, “This pandemic is not a punishment from God but, perhaps, it’s a call for us to live differently.” Of all the words he has ever written and said, those are some of the most important, Bishop Foys said.

“God doesn’t exact punishments like this, but he does call us to live a different way,” he said. “During this pandemic, in our country and our own diocese, we hear from people how they have the right not to wear a mask or follow other restrictions. ‘I don’t care about your rights. I don’t care about your well-being. I have the right to do what I want,’” he said.

“Nineteen years, what have we learned? Where are the flags? Where is the patriotism? Where are the churches filled with people begging God to lift this scourge from us — begging God to make us one nation under God?” he said.

Bishop Foys asked the Curia members present to pray especially for the police. “What has happened to the reverence and the esteem to which we held those first responders that day? I can remember seeing the firefighters, police, EMTs and first responders, how many of them gave up or risked their lives for others. And now, 19 years later, these very same people are vilified — they are the enemy. I have heard them being described as a cancer on our nation; our police men and women! Who defend us! Where is our fault in all of this? Are we afraid to examine our consciences?”

“Today we remember those 2,996 people who died and the people who are still suffering from their injuries. May that remembrance call us to change the way we live. If it does not, those 2,996 people died in vain and all those policemen and women, firefighters, EMTs and first responders risked their lives in vain.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily imploring for God’s mercy.

“We offer this Mass for all those who have died in Nine-eleven, for all those who were injured, for all those who have died of the coronavirus and for all the police, firefighters, EMTs, doctors and nurses. We pray also for all those who are hard of heart and do not accept this pandemic for what it is; who will not take the precautions we are called to make — if not for our own sake but for the sake and safety of others,” Bishop Foys said. “Nine-eleven was a dark day in the history of our nation. Unfortunately, we have made it darker by our behavior since then. God have mercy on us.”