Grace and Healing on 9-11: Praying for the 9-11 Terrorists

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I have been going through a period of deep spiritual struggle.  It has been the kind of struggle that bears much fruit.  These struggles are deepening my faith and teaching me to rely on Christ’s will for me, rather than my own will.  My eyes have been truly opened to different aspects of Christ’s betrayal and the Cross.  Today revealed to me just how much God’s grace is working in me.  The only source of my understanding is Him.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  It is a deeply difficult day for thousands of people personally, and a day of mourning and remembrance as a nation.  The last 13 years of my life have been shaped by my 9-11 experiences.  Three years after my relief work,  I suffered through a few years of debilitating PTSD.  After absolutely stellar treatment from some of the world’s top EMDR and PTSD specialists, I have been able to live with those memories.  I live with next to no PTSD symptoms, from that period in my life.  One aspect was still in need of healing and that was a spiritual dimension.

As Christians, we are called to pray for our enemies.  As Catholics, that includes the dead.  I have never been able to bring myself to pray for the 19 hijackers, until today.  At 9:37am this morning, at the exact same time Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people, I started to pray a Rosary before holy relics of Our Lord’s Cross (yes, the actual Cross of Jesus).  As I started my Rosary, I began to list my petitions: the families of the killed, those killed, the relief workers, etc.  Then I got the thought to pray for the terrorists’ souls.  At first, I could not utter the words.  I began to sob in utter agony.  I fell onto all fours and sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes.  I had the sense (eye of faith) that my Guardian Angel was there comforting me.  The Agony in the Garden came to mind.  I finally got back up on my knees and through my sobs, prayed for the souls of the terrorists and those who terrorize today.   It was the hardest Rosary I have ever prayed in my life.  I sobbed and shook throughout it, but I knew Our Lord and Our Lady were with me.  When I finished, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me.  The sobbing stopped and peace set in.

Some of you will read this and respond in anger.  Some of you will not understand praying for the souls of the dead, especially those who chose evil.  Catholics, unlike a lot of other Christian denominations, pray for the dead constantly.  But, some of you will understand why this is significant, and why it is necessary.  I had to walk into the Garden and cry out in agony. I chose courage.  I walked towards the Cross.   Something that I have avoided for well over a decade.  I knew those prayers would be hard.  It is only by God’s grace that I was able to utter them.  To release my own anger at those 19 men, who murdered so many, and left me in the throngs of PTSD 10 years ago.  This was God’s doing.  In choosing to let go, He was able to heal my hurt.  It is hard, but in confronting deep pain, with God as our guide, we are set free.

What agony do you need to confront?  Let God heal you.

What 9-11 Means to Me This Year: From a Relief Worker

This is very close to where I stood with 400 grieving family members a few days after 9-11.
This is very close to where I stood with 400 grieving family members a few days after 9-11.

9-11 means a lot of different things to people.  Everyone has a story of where they were on that day.  I just happen to be one of those people who spent 45 days smack dab in the middle of the pain, agony, and destruction of 9-11.  On 9-11 I was stationed at a large intel base.  We were considered a top 10 target and a mass evacuation of non-military personnel started right after the Pentagon was hit.  I don’t remember much because it was so chaotic and terrifying.  What I do remember is my friend was 8.5 months pregnant with her first child, and her then husband worked at the Pentagon.  The phones were jammed, so we waited until early evening before we knew that he was safe, having hiked up I-395 to get a ride back to our base.  I stayed with her all day to make sure that she was ok.  We huddled inside the Marine barracks, terrified of every jet engine we heard over head.  Our base was in the BWI flight path.   I remember a blazing sun against a crystal blue sky.  I remember people running frantically.  I remember armed Marines running with M-16s to secure our base.  I remember bracing for impact and being sure that death was coming.  I had never been that terrified in my entire life.  I don’t think anything else has matched it since (other than when the PTSD was rally bad 10 years ago).  Thank God!

Once the initial attacks cleared, my reaction was that I needed to help.  I lived a few miles from DC.  I needed to do what I could to help those in need.  Rather unexpectedly, a friend of mine, with a similar drive, said that she was being sent by our base to serve the families of those killed at the Pentagon.  I said that I was going with her, and so 8 of us from my base went to the Pentagon Family Assistance Center to serve the surviving families.  The Navy lost more people than any other branch or Agency, and they wanted us there in uniform in case the families wanted a Sailor to talk to and also to serve them in any capacity necessary.

The first few days were agony.  I witnessed the deepest in human suffering.  My 20 year old heart and mind, was not prepared for this level of pain.  My faith was still young and weak, and it was not my primary rock throughout that period.  I had to fight my own tears, in the face of hurting, mourning people.  A few days after the attack, I stood in front of the crash site with over 400 mourning relatives.  I knew that I was staring into the abyss of Hell.  Only Hell could bring such destruction and barbarity.

While 9-11 will haunt me for the rest of my life, I did witness the strength of the human spirit.  The first couple of weeks were devastating.  The wounds were deep and fresh.  Families waited helplessly for news of their loved ones.  No one survived the attack, and all 184 perished.  When bodies started to be returned to families (what was left of their loved one), families had a sense of relief.  Over 40 bodies were never recovered.  Once this phase began, I noticed a shift to healing.  The pain was deep, but there was the very beginning of hope and healing.  By the end of my 45 days as a relief worker, the families had returned home to begin to re-build their lives.

9-11 is a defining moment in my life, because, unlike the majority of the world, I was actually a part of the event.  I was there in all its horror.  This day has meant many things for me:   pain, agony, suffering, tears, mourning, nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, hope, love, courage.  Today it means:  prayer.  These people who perpetuate this type of evil are still murdering thousands of people throughout the world.  The leaders of the West are impotent in the face of this evil, quite frankly, because in their nihilism they do not know good from evil, or evil from good.  So I wage the spiritual battle and I pray, fast, and give alms.  That is how I best serve the memories of those I met and their loved ones.  It is how I best served those being persecuted abroad.  It is how I best serve the persecutors.  So PRAY and pray hard, for the conversion of souls, for those murdered today (and every other day), the families, and the relief workers.

And, yes, because my 9-11 experiences make me feel a deep connection to the persecuted, check out Help Nasara to give alms.  We are trying to serve the suffering.  God bless you always.

We are on Facebook: www.facebook.com/helpnasara

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Getting Rid of Our Counterfeits In Order to Grow in Holiness

If the Faith we profess does not have the Cross at the center, then it is a counterfeit.
If the Faith we profess does not have the Cross at the center, then it is a counterfeit.

I am going to be honest, lately, I have really been struggling to read prominent Catholic bloggers.  It does not matter where they sit on the spectrum of “spirit of Vatican II” to rad trad.  In the Catholic blogosphere, the writers have almost created their own Magisterium.  As I read various blogs,  I find myself shaking my head.  There is always something missing when I read them.  I mean this predominately for blogs by members of the laity.  The priests’ blogs focus more on spiritual depth and how to respond to our times in the Light of Christ, while the laity focus on a more political dimension.  I don’t tend to read these blogs with my heart burning with the fire of truth.  Have you ever heard a Homily or read something from the Church in her vast history, and thought to yourself: “This is the Truth!”?  I have and it doesn’t happen when I read blogs.I am not saying that I am any better.  I am working on studies that will help me share the Truth in a more eloquent and loving way. 

I am noticing, that we are content with our counterfeits.  This is the nature of sin.  We would rather embrace a falsehood, than the real thing.  I see this in my own life.  For instance, I was debating with someone who was arguing that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that our individual consciences supersede the Church.  The breath-taking arrogance and pride of it was evident.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1776-1802), makes plain that our consciences must be formed in the light of Christ and His Church.  Yes, our conscience is what guides us, but for it to be perfected and properly ordered to God, it must be formed by the Church.  If it is not, we fall into error and heresy, which is precisely what was going on in this discussion. That is when it hit me:  We would rather have our own church than the real Church.

Being Catholic is not easy.  It means, by God’s grace, we are to submit to His authority, not our own.  How often throughout your day, do you struggle with this?  I know I do!  When my daughter wants me to play tea party and I would rather be reading.  God’s will for me is to be her mother.  When I have two gay friends who tell me they love one another, my inclination may be, to acquiesce, but that is not what God calls me to.  He calls me to share His love and His Cross with them, rather than the easy road.  Calling acts evil, is not judgment, it is love.  To love is to will the good of the other.  The ultimate good is God and freedom from sin.  Yes, we need to be civil in our tone, but we also need to be prepared for people to reject us.  When we share the Truth, there are those who may reject it, as Our Lord was rejected. 

So, what is my point?  We need to summon the courage to go after God and His Church, the authentic Jesus Christ. What are the counterfeits in your life?  Are there aspects of the Church you are struggling with right now?  Are you working towards deepening your knowledge of Christ and His Church?  Are you working on your prayer life?  On the path the holiness, we have to relinquish our counterfeits for the real thing: Jesus Christ.  God bless.

Changes in My Writing

For some of you who have been reading my blog off and on for months, you may have noticed a shift in focus in my writing.  Yes, my writing is sporadic.  I am a wife, mother, Lay Dominican, and now, a full-time graduate student in Theology.  So my time is limited.  The shift you will notice is a changing in my own understanding and deepening of what it means to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is to suffer with the other Members.

The world will change drastically over the next few decades.  Demographically, the rise of Islam and secular humanism will be great.  The world has always been Fallen, but we are here to serve now.  I am no longer in a position to rush to the aid of those in need.  Instead, my vocation is teaching me that I must pray, fast, give alms, and raise awareness of different issues.  We can no longer go about woefully ignorant.  In our decadence we have forgotten that we are engaging in very serious, and very real, spiritual warfare.  There may come a day, on THIS side of eternity, where you and I will have to give testament to what we believe.

This is not meant to be gloomy.  Rather, it is a reminder of the things that truly matter, namely our Faith in Christ and His Church.  We must prepare and grow in holiness.  We must remain vigilant because the Enemy is on the move.  Yes, I post a lot about Help Nasara right now and that is because over a hundred thousand Christians are being openly and violently persecuted in Iraq and Syria alone.  That does not include the countless other countries being impacted.  We are not impotent.  God hears our prayers and cries for justice.  Trust in God and that he will answer our prayers.  Fast for others, but also to prepare and discipline our own bodies.  Give alms to help others.  This is how we will defeat this enemy.  God bless you and thanks for reading my blog.

Remember this prayer daily.  My dad sent it to me when I was a 9-11 relief worker.  It brings great courage and hope.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

Helping the Persecuted in the Middle East

Domestic Vocation

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ISIS has been in the news again, and it brings to mind the people who are being persecuted for their faith throughout the Middle East.I’ve written before about a grassroots effort to help those Christians (and others) who are being driven from their ancient homelands in the wake of ISIS invasions throughout Iraq and Syria.

I’d like to remind you that you can still go to HelpNasara.org to order bumper magnets and stickers to remind people to pray and offer whatever assistance they can while the crisis continues. The last time I wrote, the merchandise was barely in stock. At this point, there’s a working Etsy site that allows you to order online.

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Let me be sure to point out that there is no profit on these magnets and stickers at all. In fact, the people running the finances are not even waiting until costs are covered before they…

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Help Our Persecuted Christian Brothers and Sisters

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As I was folding laundry this afternoon, I began to pray the intentions for my Rosary.  I did not get far because I began to contemplate the horrors Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq are facing today.  It’s not just a Middle Eastern problem.  Islamists like ISIS or ARAQ, are setting up shop around the globe.  There are countless countries already impacted besides our own on 9-11: Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Indonesia, UK, Spain, Bali, etc.  This is a growing threat and danger, but more than that, we need to do what we can to help.  I cannot call up our President and demand he take action, but I can raise awareness and give alms.

As I contemplated the plight of hundreds of thousands of people, my mind was drawn to an article I read earlier today.  In the article it detailed how an Iraqi Christian woman and her husband lost their 3 year old daughter to the ISIS.  They kidnapped their daughter last month and this family has not seen her since.  You see, I have a three year old daughter.  I tried to imagine what that would be like.  I was horrified, struck with terror, and pierced by intense pain.  It is my greatest nightmare for something like that to happen to my child, and yet, this is the lot of hundreds of thousands to millions of people globally.

We Americans are pretty insulated from the intense daily suffering.  Yes, people get terribly sick, there is violent crime, and loss, but we do not live day-in-and-day out in the fear that today will be the day we die at the hands of murderous thugs.  I do not walk out of my home worried that a group of ISIS thugs is going to rape me, sell me into slavery, or behead me, or my family.  I go about my day in peace.  I go about my day in freedom.

These stories and others like it coming out of Syria and Iraq are the reason a bunch of us got together on Facebook and started our group Help Nasara.  The mainstream media and our current President are not mentioning the plight of Christians at the hands of ISIS.  We are selling custom designed bumper stickers and car magnets for $3.50 each plus shipping (.75 cents).  We are too small to cover our printing costs, so $2.30 will go to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and the rest covers our printing.  Help us get the word out about these grave injustices.  Like us on Facebook and check out our website: www.helpnasara.org

Thank you so much for your support and may God bless you always.

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