The following column is from the homily of Bishop Edward Burns at the Catholic Schools Mass on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.
This is a wonderful opportunity for me to express my gratitude to the Catholic Schools Office for all that they have done in order to put forth and set up this new school year, for, as all of you know, this school year is coming to us with a lot of struggle, a lot of challenges, and, of course, it is an adventure, to say the least.
In addition to our Catholic Schools Office, I have to offer my profound thanks to all the principals, and the presidents, in our school system, who have been so steadfast and so earnest in all the details that are necessary for this school year. We do not take the details for granted this year.
Through them, we recognize the good and hard work of all the teachers—the teachers who are exhibiting such a commitment and dedication to Catholic education. As the bishop of this diocese, to all the teachers, I am profoundly grateful for all that you are doing. You are a blessing to us. To the staff that makes sure that all the details are in place, what a joy it is knowing that you exercise your tasks with the dedication and joy that you do.
To the parents—recognizing your care and concern for your children—is a care and concern that truly imitates the care and concern God has for us. And to you, the students, thank you for taking seriously all the extra efforts that are necessary in this school year. And I am grateful to all of you for the way you are approaching the adventures and struggles of this year.
Well, today is a somber day. Today is Sept. 11, 2020. We recall because this is an anniversary date of Sept. 11, 2001, when there were the terrorist attacks on the United States in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania—which resulted in the death and destruction of a number of people.
At that time, I worked in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and I could see smoke from the Pentagon from my office window. I began to learn how certain priests responded to the events of Sept. 11 and I learned of one priest, who was in the Capitol building in Washington D.C., on that day. He was asked to be the Chaplain of the Day for Congress.
As the Speaker Pro-tem began to learn on that day of what had just transpired in New York City, he called Congress to order early. In doing so, he asked for the Chaplain of the Day, a Catholic priest, to offer the prayer. The priest, as with any Chaplain of the Day, has to have the prayer prepared and submitted before actually praying it. But on that day because of the events he altered his prayer to reflect on what had just occurred up in New York City. After the priest offered his prayer, the Speaker Pro-Tem said that in light of the events of that day and what was unfolding, Congress would stand in recess until further notice, and the gavel came down. It is interesting to look back in history and see that the only Act of Congress on Sept. 11, 2001 was the prayer of a priest.
My friends, it is important to know, that in the midst of troubles, terror, evil, when we even have a glimpse of God we have the great glimpse of a profound hope that is given to us through Him.
It’s interesting to see that today is a somber day and also a spiritual day. Today is Friday and as we pray the Rosary, Friday is the day that we reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries. Of the various days that we reflect on different mysteries it is Tuesday and Friday that we reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries. So, today. as we pray a Rosary, we reflect on the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar—that Our Lord received 40 lashes. We meditate on the mystery of the fact that He was crowned with thorns. We reflect on the mystery that Our Lord was given his cross and had to carry it up to Calvary, fell three times and then we also reflect in the Sorrowful Mystery, the ultimate mystery of the crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
But it is important for us to know that after the Sorrowful Mysteries, come the Glorious Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries are the ones in which we truly celebrate the great gift of salvation. For in the Glorious Mysteries, we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, that there is victory over death. We celebrate the Ascension, that He ascended to the Father’s right hand. We celebrate Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and upon all of us.
We celebrate the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into Heaven and we also celebrate her coronation—that Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth. We celebrate the Glorious Mysterious; therein lies the very essence of what God has in store for us.
It was interesting that on the day after Sept. 11, 2001, it was Wednesday, Sept. 12 and at the Vatican, the pope at that time, St. John Paul II, went out and had his Wednesday audience. In his address to the Wednesday audience, in reference to what had happened the day before in the United States, Saint John Paul II said, “Evil, sin, suffering and death will not have the last word.”
My friends, Jesus Christ is the word made flesh and in Jesus Christ do we find our hope. Therein lies the very essence of who we are. We are disciples of Jesus Christ and no matter what befalls us, we are going to see a hope in Him and He is going to strengthen us. He is going to sustain us. He is going to be with us, always.
And so, we look at the struggles we have today and even though they are difficult and even though there is pain and suffering, we never lose hope. We never lose hope; and it’s important that we cry out to God, who hears all of our prayers that he is going to be with us. And so it is very important for us to be mindful of the great gift of salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us and that through our suffering, through our trials, tribulations, that we can still be a people filled with hope.
This year’s going to have for us a lot of challenges, a lot of struggles. With God’s grace, He will strengthen us. He will give us the resolve to face them. And knowing His presence, we will be a people of hope.