Remember the Living

Today is the date on the calendar that will forever be noted as “9/11” rather than merely “September 11th.” This picture (snapped by a photographer on the scene on 9/11/2015) is the visual image that many of us hold in our hearts on this day. The dead manFr Mychal Judge being carried out in his chair by 5 other men is Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan priest who served as chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He is #001 on the official death toll listing of all those who died in the terrorist attacks on that clear September day in 2001.

From all reports, Fr. Mychal was a fine man of deep integrity, and he risked – and lost – his life in the service of others.  As, of course, did many, many others. But because of this picture, Fr. Mychal has become kind of a cult hero, larger almost in death than he was in life. Perhaps it is our way of giving a face to the otherwise incomprehensible horror of the sudden vicious murder of almost 3,000 people.

No mistake about it, Fr. Mychal is a hero. But as we at the monastery gather today for Morning Praise – on this day of all days – it also seems important not just to be inspired by and to remember, as we usually do, the lives of those who are now dead. But instead to note, celebrate, and hold on to – as this picture shows so clearly – the lives of those who still live, whose names we don’t recognize, who are merely ordinary people who quietly go about being peacemakers wherever and whenever they happen to be. Those who step in when needed and lift up and carry those who, for whatever reason, are unable to do so for themselves.

Because I don’t recall ever hearing the names of the other five folks in this famous picture, I did some looking. I could only find the name of one of them. The man in the white police uniform is Bill Cosgrove, who was a lieutenant at the time with the New York Police Department. He never met Fr. Mychal; he just happened to be the one who found his body in the midst of all the chaos right before the tower collapsed. The other four men are merely identified as 2 firemen, 1 EMT, and 1 civilian bystander. What I did confirm is that all 5 survived the attacks. And they are heroes, too. As were many, many folks on that day whose names, and even faces, we will never know.

And so, on this day, let us remember not only Fr. Mychal Judge. Let us also remember and celebrate those anonymous folks who, apparently without a second thought, lifted him up and carried him when that was simply what was needed.

Peacemakers all.

The Fullness of Time

SAM_1755

The Dwelling Place Monastery is located on twenty-five acres of eastern Kentucky hillside. We live in the Appalachian rain forest surrounded by nature. And as so often happens, I forget the gift our home is to us. But not today.

Usually I do my reading and meditating in my room after breakfast but today I decided to spend that time on the back porch. The temperature and the humidity were both low and I realized that even though it is still August, summer is fading fast so I should take advantage of the day.

Looking out, I noticed the hills across the valley from us are not as green as they were even last week. Sap is returning to roots. Leaves are losing chlorophyll and turning, if not brown, less green. Soon they will turn red and yellow and fall to the ground.

SAM_1750

Then my eyes were captured by a falling leaf. The startling thing was this leaf was perfect–green, whole, not diseased or damaged. It just let loose from the twig and drifted to the ground.

“How strange that it would fall before it’s time”, I thought.

“Who said it wasn’t it’s time?” came the unbidden reply.

SAM_1735

To everything there is a season.  We think that a season is so many months or so many years but really seasons are as individual as snowflakes. Careers end, young people die, green leaves fall. Were they cut short? Or did they come to their fullness of time? I have no idea.

I know that I spend time regretting the past or fearing the future instead of being present to what is happening in the moment. But every once in a while I am captured by a falling leaf and find myself in the season of now, in the fullness of my time. And I am blessed.