Vigil Lights

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

September 28, 2001



            Here’s a hot stock tip.  Buy vigil lights.

            Ever since September 11, America has been on its knees.  Catholics have been lighting vigil candles in prayer like never before.  If there is a growth industry in the current atmosphere, it is anything associated with pray.  Like vigil lights.

            As tragic as the events of the last month have been, I think this new atmosphere is all the good.

            I have always thought that God enters us through our wounds.  Certainly our wounded country is looking to God for healing.

            In our little community, like so many places all across the nation, we have not just been keeping to ourselves in prayer.  We have been praying across denominational and religious lines.

A little over a week after the day of tragedy the local mosque invited people over on a Saturday evening for prayer and a pot luck dinner.  Although the Islamic center is usually deserted on Saturday evening, it was filled to the gills.  People spilled over into the parking lot.  A great sign of solidarity and American religious acceptance of one another.

The next Monday, the local public high school hosted a prayer meeting in the auditorium.  About 350 people braved weather so threatening that it spawned nearby tornadoes, to come out and pray and sing together.  We had speakers from the Moslem, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic communities.  (I was proud of the fact that most of the people there were Catholics). 

In all of this I think America is rediscovering something about itself.  Something that makes us truly great and extra-ordinary.

We are seeing ourselves as vulnerable and aware of our need for God. Aware of our need to explore the meaning and mystery of life in light of the tragedy of immanent death.

But we are also demonstrating something to the world.  We are showing something to the Moslem world and to other places like Northern Ireland.

We are showing the world that it is possible for people to be faithful to their own religious traditions and yet still respectful of others.

We are showing the world that is possible for people with different, cultures and theologies and prayer styles, to pray together.  To learn from each other.  To love each other.

Of all the things to emerge out of these terrible tragedies, that may be the most important.

As the Pope said in his trip to Kazakstan shortly after September 11, no more blood should be shed in the name of God or by people over their differing concepts of how to serve God. 

I think this is the project of the new millennium for religion.

We need to show to skeptics and unbelievers that religion is a source of strength and healing for a culture.  Not the cause of blood shed and fanaticism.  For this we need to get on our knees together.   We might even light a few vigil lights.