How do you write 1,000 words about something no words can describe? That's the question that goes through my mind as I sit in front of my computer trying to write this column.
This column was supposed to be about Adventthe joyous anticipation of
Christ's birth. Instead, I am writing about the terrorist
attacks that shook our nation on September 11. It is the hardest
thing I have ever written. But as Pope John Paul II said the
day after the attacks, in those times "when words seem to
fail...faith comes to our aid."
And so I'm writing this column on faith. I'm not a theologian or a psychologist. I don't have answers for why things like this happen or how to explain this to your children. For those questions, it is best to seek out the experts. I'm simply writing from my heart.
The Power of Faith
On the day of the attacks I was numb watching the television.
Talks of further attacks and war shook my sense of security
and normalcy. I struggled to make sense of this tragedy. After
realizing that I couldn't, I decided to rely on the things
of which I was certain in my lifemy faith and my family.
Shortly after the tragedy, I told a colleague that I was grateful that at the age of two my daughter, Madison, was too young to understand what was going on. When she came in the room, we simply turned off the gruesome images. I was grateful, because I didn't know what I would say. The next day, my colleague told me that after thinking about it she decided she would simply say, "God loves you, and Mom and Dad love you." Two certainties, I thought, in a time of uncertainty.
Over the course of the next weeks, we all saw signs such as "Pray for peace,"
"God bless America" and "United we stand." I realized that
what has always brought me such comfort in my faithprayer,
community, knowing that God is with meand was the impetus
for my writing this column in the first place were the same
things that were sustaining others in this time of uncertainty.
It reaffirmed my faith and why I want to pass it on to my
children. I want them to know that in times such as these
their faith is the one thing they can rely on to help them
From Helplessness to Hopefulness
But faith alone did not seem enough for me or, I'm sure, for many others. There were still questions to be asked and answered, such as how do I talk to my kids about what happened, or what can I do to help those affected by the terrorist attacks?
As I said before, I am not an expert. I'm a mom. All I can offer as a mom and a columnist is a reminder to love your children (and all your loved ones), hug them, pray, tell them what they mean to you and be a model of peace for them. Pray for the victims, their families, the rescuers, the healers, the perpetrators, those who defend our country and for each other.
We must also remember to turn away from any type of violence or prejudice toward those of the Islamic faith. In a joint message, the U.S. bishops and Muslim leaders said, "We believe that the one God calls us to be peoples of peace. Nothing in our Holy Scriptures, nothing in our understanding of God's revelation, nothing that is Christian or Islamic justifies terrorist acts and disruption of millions of lives which we have witnessed this week. Together we condemn those actions as evil and diametrically opposed to true religion."
Following the attacks many people took action by donating blood, making financial donations, wearing red, white and blue ribbons, flying their flags, sending notes and cards of support
and condolences to the victims and rescue workers and many other acts of kindness and deep solidarity.
The Internet has provided a wonderful outlet for people to gather resources for dealing with the tragedies of September 11 and finding a way to help those affected. The following is a sampling of useful sites:
The U.S. bishops have put together a wonderful Web page at
Many of these resources, such as Scripture readings and prayers,
can be used with your family when you're together. You can
also read the reactions of Church leaders around the world,
and blessings for victims of crime, firefighters, police and
Sites such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.
org/advocacy/releases/disastercomm.htm), the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (http://www.aacap.org/
publications/DisasterResponse/index.htm) or The United
States Department of Education (http://
www.ed.gov/inits/september11) can help you with ways to
address this tragedy with your children.
Though I realize the complexity of our current situation,
what parent or grandparent doesn't want a peaceful world for
their children/ grandchildren to grow up in? In late 1999,
the Sisters United News (SUN) and St. Anthony Messenger Press
teamed to try to collect 1,000 yearsabout 8.5 million
hoursof peace through pledges solicited on the Web and
by hand. To date, there have been over one million hours pledged
for activities. If you need help with a peacemaking idea,
the site lists suggestions for different activities. To make
a pledge, visit www.pledgepeace.org,
or send your pledge to Pledge Peace, c/o Judy Ball, 28 W.
Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45210.
If you would like to donate money for the relief effort,
you can do so through Catholic Charities USA (www.catholicharitiesusa.org),
which is coordinating the Catholic Church's response to the
September 11 attacks.
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "The nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had."
Let us continue to be examples of strength and courage for our families and each other through our words and actions.
Jesus, Our Strongest Certainty
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the world's savior,
let's hold fast to the certainties in our livesfaith,
family, God's loveas well as another certainty that
we as Christians know: "For God so loved the world that he
gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might
not perish but might have eternal life" (John 3:16). Have
a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
Next Month: Celebrating Life