Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salvation in the North Tower...and on the Baseball Diamond.

Mychael Judge, OFM
Every year on 9/11, I make a point of teaching my students about the life and witness of Father Mychal Judge. The Franciscan friar and Catholic priest was chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. He ran into the lobby of the north tower after it had been hit alongside firefighters and other rescue personnel. It has been said that he was blessing people, giving last rites and offering confessions to men and women trying to flee the building, when falling debris collapsed on him. He is Victim 0001. 

For whatever reason, this year I could barely tell this story—I got so choked up. I was overcome with emotion as I thought about this saint losing his life while administering the sacraments for others. My students bowed their heads; we let a long pause linger in the classroom until I brought the remembrance to a close.

One young man broke the silence to ask: "Why you would want to have your confession heard in that time and place?" I looked at him and gathered my thoughts. I realized a very sobering reality, this young man—and perhaps countless others seldom think about salvation. When you're 17, it's probably the last thing on your mind. Tragedy reminds us otherwise.

A number of country songs tell us what the road to hell is paved by...but it's high time we start to consider the path to salvation and what will get us there. I believe what the victims of 9/11 sought in their final moments are a good indicator—forgiveness, the grace of the sacraments, blessings and giving of ourselves in service to others.

But most events in life are totally unlike those of 9/11—right? It goes without saying that most days aren't nearly as intense or painful. Thanks be to God. Most of us are trying to live good lives day in and day out. And most 17 years olds, are trying to have a good time doing so. 

Fortunately, the article "March Madness" speaks to that. The author, Rev. Dr Michael Tino reminds me that our spiritual lives need not always be so serious. He writes "And the business of fun—of play, of laughter, of lightness—is important spiritual stuff. Jesuit scholar Hugo Rahner is quoted as having written: “To play is to yield oneself to a kind of magic … to enter a world where different laws apply, to be relieved of all the weights that bear it down, to be free, kingly, unfettered and divine.”

Indeed, and I believe that is exactly where the Divine wants to meet us. This simple photo from the Trenton Monitor captured this conviction.
At first, I looked as this priest offering the sacrament of Reconciliation on the baseball field as a joke. I thought it was staged. I saw it as an "over-the-top" sales job to get young people to Confession. But the longer, I thought about it, the more I realized how important it might be. The young man who receives the grace of the sacrament on the baseball diamond is probably much more likely to become the man who seeks it fleeing a burning building than not. I could be wrong, but I think there's something there...

Our salvation is something to consider each day. To do so, invites the life and love of Jesus into our hearts and our homes. It means that we acknowledge our sins and seek God's mercy. The wonder of our God is that God offers it anytime and any place—from the north tower of the World Trade Center to a  baseball diamond in Kent, WA. Blessed Be God

Photo Credits
Fr Mychael

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