I am sure that no one will be surprised if I say a few words today about the events of this past Tuesday -- events that give a whole new dimension to the numbers nine-eleven (911).
First of all, let me thank and commend those who, without any prompting, came to Mass the following morning to pray for the victims of that barbaric act. I had thought to offer the Requiem Mass, until I sat down to pray the morning Office and discovered that it was September 12th, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary -- the feast instituted by Pope Innocent XI to commemorate the expulsion of the Moslem invaders of Vienna, Austria in 1683. Certainly such days are occasions of prayer for the dead, but they must also be occasions of prayer for the living, who need the help of God to wisely and energetically deal with what remains. We must keep those people regularly in our prayers: the living and the dead, our leaders in Church and society, and of course the survivors whose lives were so fearfully changed.
Before anything else, it must be said that no action of violence or recrimination may be taken against innocent people or their property -- no matter how similar they may be inn appearance, ethnicity, or belief to those we believe responsible for Tuesday's terrorism. To take out our anger on the innocent would be to reduce ourselves to the same immoral and cowardly level as the terrorists. That is simply unacceptable.
We must remember that Tuesday was not an isolated occurrence -- that it was not a day without parallel in the history of Christendom. If you will envision the map of Europe, with Spain and France at its western border, with the lands of the Bible at the eastern border (say, Israel and Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Chaldea), you will be able to see in your mind's eye a civilization under constant attack for the past thirteen-hundred years or so, being periodically invaded from Africa and Arabia to the south.
Moslem invaders held Spain for eight-hundred years, and were turned back from France by Charles Martel as early as the year 732. Several feasts in the Church's calendar are there to commemorate the help of our Blessed Lady in repelling those invaders from Christendom: Our Lady of Victories, Our Lady of the Rosary, the Holy Name of Mary, Holy Protection of our Lady -- no doubt, there are others -- no doubt at all that many such victories have gone un-commemorated.
Today the invasion continues -- often by legal means, for the Western democracies are not philosophically equipped to see the threat of the religion of the sword, that calls in its Quran for a "painful doom for the Rabbis and the Monks who wantonly devour the wealth of mankind and bar men from the way of Allah" (Quran, surah ix, v. 34). "A painful doom"!
While it would surely be wrong to shift blame for today's carnage away from the terrorists and their supporters, we would do well to consider what Christendom has failed to do that made Tuesday's attack possible, and even likely to happen.
If we look back on our own history, we see Christendom successful in repelling Islamic invasion when it was united -- and particularly when it was united in prayer. The internal crusade in Spain, the Crusades to recover the Holy Lands, the military actions at places like Lepanto, Constantinople, and Vienna, were successful when they were holy. They failed when Christian armies turned to make war on each other -- as when Western Catholics sacked Constantinople, or when they allied themselves with the Moslems or the Protestants against fellow Catholics.
The Blessed Mother seems to play a continuing part in our defense. But think of how things have changed since the times of Popes like Saint Pius V or Innocent XI! How many people do you suppose there were in Christendom praying the Rosary this September 11th? One can only speculate, but my speculation would be that 16th century Europe, with its much smaller population, prayed a lot more Rosaries -- and prayed a lot more in general.
Some will counter that Mary looks out for us whether we ask her help or not. Correctly, they will remind us that it was She, and not the bridal couple, who noticed the shortage of wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. They would, of course, be right -- for Mary looks after even her most wayward children. But we also have to consider: Do we have any right to God's protection and that of His holy Mother? Strictly speaking, no one has such a right but surely we can feel a bit more confident if we are honestly trying to follow God's ways.
Now, only the very naïve would think that there was no sin in the middle ages!! There were sinners then, as there are now. But as a society, we have institutionalized certain sins that were virtually unknown when there really was such a thing as Christendom.
(1) God has been expunged from our society. For how many Americans is Sunday nothing more than an excuse to sleep late, go shopping, or watch football? How many keep the Sabbath not at all, almost purposefully scheduling the things that ought be done on other days? How many use the names of God and Jesus as though they were socially correct curse-words? How much correct information do our children receive about God and religion in our schools and forms of entertainment? Probably some fool will criticize President Bush for praying in School on Tuesday!
And God's truth has been trivialized, even by the highest leaders in His own Church. It is very easy for a modern Catholic to come home from the Church founded by Jesus Christ with the misconception that all religions are equally good -- that they are just different ways to the same God -- or "gods" -- or to thinkinng ethical and happy thoughts. Catholics have been treated to a fictional history of centuries of "ecumenical" cooperation between Catholics, Jews, and Moslems -- a history that simply did not take place. And "political correctness" has permeated the Church, even to the extent of re-wording prayers and ceasing to pray for the conversion of souls to the true Faith.
(2) While it would be completely correct to describe Tuesday's events as a "callous disregard for human life" -- there is a similar disregard for human life in modern Christendom -- it is just manifested in a much neater and more high sounding manner. Children are viewed as a disease to be prevented or excised from the womb -- with their remains to be experimented upon. The best efforts of Congress have failed to prevent various forms of infanticide. Both normal and perverted forms of sexual behavior -- that would not even have been hinted at in mixed company fifty years ago now appear in every form of media -- many of them are taught in our public and Catholic schools. Those critical of immoral behavior have come to be called "bigots" for their supposed "intolerance." Abstinence, which would eliminate virtually all of the diseases associated with such immorality is derided, and we are forced to pay for research to enable the sinners to keep on sinning. Philandering is a criminal defense for perjury.
God is not mocked! But even if God didn't care, we are doing all these things, infallibly directed toward the reduction of Western society -- precisely while the Moslem world overtakes and outnumbers us just through normal increase -- and precisely while following those aspects of the natural moral law that many Christians have chosen to violate.
Finally, it must be pointed out that we in the Western Democracies have allowed ourselves to lose control of what it is our duty to control. In the past few days, we have heard so many people ask: "Why did this happen?" "Why?" is an ambiguous word. Some of these folks meant to ask, "Why did God let this happen?" Those that ask this sincerely are obviously clueless, having failed altogether to recognize the ways in which we have failed God.
Others -- equally clueless -- sincerely ask, "Why are these people mad at average Americans?" Good question: "Why indeed are people in other countries mad at America?" And particularly: "How can they be angry with the average working class American whom they have never met?" Why can't they distinguish between average Americans and the occasionally bone-headed policies of American presidents, congressmen, and generals?
Consider that while it is possible to be annoyed by the policies of a foreign king, most realistic people would bear rather little animosity toward that king's subjects -- knowing that the subjects have no say in making the policy, and may even be forced to carry it out. But we Americans have no king. We have reserved the powers of kingship to our states and to ourselves, delegating only temporary power to officials who must face us for re-election every two to six years. The fact that, compared with the rest of the world, the poorest of us live fairly well, makes it seem "obvious" that our elected kings have no power over us.
It is their fault if foreigners believe that Americans really govern themselves? Most likely, they would be amazed if they were to discover that most Americans have a greater familiarity with the names of ball players, actors, and singers, than they do with the names of their congressmen and cabinet members. It would be inconceivable, I am sure, that a self-governing people could possibly be more familiar with the rules of football or basketball, than with the workings of their government -- more familiar with fielding statistics and runs-batted-in than with the history of their country.
I would suggest to you that Americans are hated, at least in part, because we have become negligent in controlling the enormous power entrusted to us.
What can be done?
Well, every American ought to resolve the events of this past Tuesday never again be repeated in our country or in anyone else's. But that will take great effort.
Immediate measures will be taken, as they must. There will be stronger security on airlines and in public places; presumably flight crews will be armed. Perhaps we will re-examine our immigration and foreign policies; perhaps our ideas about the feasibility of mega-cities and skyscrapers. No doubt we will see stepped up military and civilian defense. There will be great opportunities for charity as the victims start to rebuild their lives -- donate blood if you are able. But in reality, these things are just Band-Aids. The real work must begin at more fundamental levels.
Christians must again become serious about being Christians and living in a Christian society. If that sounds intolerant, it will soon be found that it is equally intolerant of non-Christian behavior by Christians; perhaps more so. The Commandments must once again become a way of life in America -- we should be intolerant of those who break them repeatedly and unrepentantly -- such intolerance is a virtue. The cultural Marxism that we know as "political correctness" must end with September eleventh.
For the past thirty or forty years, Christianity and chiefly Catholicism, has gone the peculiar route of trying to achieve unity by blurring and ignoring the differences of doctrine and morality -- both those between Christians, and those between Christians and other peoples. That is counter productive, for the idea that such things may be blurred and ignored has decreased, rather than increased, the already tenuous unity Christians had at the beginning of the twentieth century. It has put us off guard about those hostile to Christianity and Christendom. Most of what passes for "ecumenism" is just the question of "what beliefs are Catholics willing to give up this time around?" Once again we must begin to live as though we actually believe that the Son of God established His Church on earth to teach His truth.
God must be re-admitted to American society -- to society everywhere really. Respect for Him, His Holy Name, His Sabbath, His Divine Son and Holy Mother, and His Commandments -- Christians must demand this, first of themselves, for that is where all reform must arise; but also from all those in the public forum. In a sense, we must recover our innocence. There must come a day when no one will dare to make a blasphemous movie, or to pull down the standards of morality on television -- a day when those who curse publicly or engage in lewd behavior will be shunned. It must become un-profitable to be evil.
Respect must be regained, once again, for human life. We cannot expect it of our enemies if we are without it ourselves. While such respect is in indivisible part of God's Commandments, it bears separate emphasis, for even the man without God ought to be able to see the need to respect his own kind. Perhaps even a secular humanism can be made to see the need for respect of humanity.
Finally, we as Americans must begin to take back a much greater role in our own government. We need to do it quickly, for there is a strong possibility that the opportunists in government will use Tuesday's tragedy as an excuse to further infringe our own civil liberties, or that they will seek revenge on innocent people instead of exercising justice against the guilty. Certainly, there will always be room for argument about foreign and domestic policy -- we will probably always have opponents who dislike our decisions and envy our prosperity. But it is inexcusable for voting citizens to be so ignorant of the mechanism of their government and of the people they entrust with power to run it.
There are many substantive things to be done. Pray to God that the blood of the innocent that was spilled on September 11th 2001 AD was not shed in vain.
+ May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost descend upon you and upon this great land of ours and remain forever. God bless you, and God bless America!