Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today is September 11th, 2011.

Ten years ago, our nation was attacked by terrorists, resulting in the destruction of the World Trade Center, severe damage to the Pentagon, and the loss of life in a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. September 11th, 2001 was, as one commentator put it, a "Pearl Harbor" day for our generation.

We all can remember where we were and what we were doing.

I was flying that day.

I was flying from Milwaukee to Baltimore via Cincinnati to participate in a recruiting event for the Graduate School of Marquette University. As we landed in Cincinnati for our scheduled lay-over, the pilot made an announcement that there had been a hijacking in New York, and that our connecting flights might be delayed. Once in the terminal, it didn't take long to figure out that there would be no more flying that day. I saw one of the towers fall from a restaurant in the Cincinnati airport. I was still serving in ministry in my previous denomination, and was dressed in clerics. I immediately went to the airport chapel, and spoke to the chaplain on duty, expressing my support and offering any assistance deemed necessary.

It took an hour to find my bag. Luggage from the various planes had been dumped in piles in the terminal. I was fortunate enough to find a nearby hotel, and spent the best part of the next two days (like everyone else) glued to the television. I was finally able to get home via the train -- itself an adventure -- and resume my "normal" daily routine.

Many people have asked "Where was God on that fateful day?" "Why didn't He stop the terrorists?" These are reasonable questions which have no easy answer. Of the many gifts which God has given us, the gift of Free Will is one fraught with questions of this nature. Since the episode in the Garden of Eden, Man has made choices. Some bad, some good.

Free Will was on full display on September 11th, 2001. The mind-numbing evil of the terrorists, yes. But also the good. Oh, the good deeds done on that day. Oh, the acts of heroism. Scripture teaches us that "Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend." On September 11th, 2001 greater love was shown over and over, not only in the laying down of life for a friend, but in the laying down of life for total strangers. New York's Finest. New York's Bravest. Franciscan priest and Fire Department chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge who was killed by falling debris as he knelt to give the Last Rites to a stricken fireman. The passengers of Flight 93. The list goes on.

Where was God? God was everywhere. Grace was rampant.

One further point.

Has anyone stopped to consider that it was by the Grace of God that the tragedy was not even more horrific than it was? Do you remember the original news reports, citing death tolls upwards of 20,000 people? That easily could have happened. Roughly 100,000 persons could have been in those towers on a given weekday. Tens of thousands worked at the Pentagon. Flight 93 could have hit either the Capitol or the White House.

Oh yes. God was there.

Some closing thoughts, taken from The Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 3.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be an affliction,

and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of men they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.

They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his elect,
and he watches over his holy ones.


Papa Z.

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