September 3, 2021

Never forget: Remembering 9/11

9/11: Faith and fear at forefront of a day that changed our world

(Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, then a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, offered a remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, how he and others reacted to that day’s tragedies, and how people’s lives and faith have been affected since.)

Archbishop Charles C. ThompsonI was traveling on a bus with senior citizens from St. Augustine Parish in Lebanon, Ky., to Saint Meinrad Archabbey/Seminary in southern Indiana when we learned of the terrorist attacks that morning.

At first, we were stunned. It seemed unreal. Upon our returning to Lebanon that night, I learned that the two priests living with me had held a prayer service earlier in the evening.

My recollection is that, as is common with major crisis events, some people responded in faith while others reacted in fear.

The Church was quite full that following weekend. We were especially concerned about the children, being particularly present in the school. The response of faith was evident in people joining together in prayer, especially at Mass, in outreach and support. The reaction of fear was noticed in various forms of panic, suspicion and withdrawal.

Overall, it seems that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, caused people to re-evaluate what was most important in their lives; namely, God, family and friends. It also caused people to feel more vulnerable which, consequently, rapidly increased security measures in travel and a variety of ways. Our world was changed, and our way of living was altered.

The Church played a key role in helping people to overcome their fear, panic, anxiety, depression, sadness and uncertainties. Unfortunately, however, this was just months before the sex abuse of minors in the Church would become such a public scandal and reverberate throughout the world for decades to come.

The key to surviving any crisis, like 9/11, is not to lose hope. As people of faith, our hope is in God. Jesus Christ is our hope and salvation.

In many ways, practically every facet of religion and society has increasingly become polarized beyond any other time in history. Some might wonder if the events of 9/11 had a greater degree of impact than we might realize on this phenomenon. It should all remind us of the need to remain rooted in prayer, faith and mutual respect rather than to succumb to the destructive consequences of fear, suspicion and hate.

As Pope Francis exhorts us time and again, even when there is disagreement, we must never tire of accompaniment, dialogue, encounter and mercy.

For Catholics, that rootedness is ultimately realized and sustained in remaining steadfast in the word of God and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.

In essence, we are at our best when we strive to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered or agenda-driven. †

See more of our coverage of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

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