Program #0510 for Thursday, April 18, 2013: Interfaith Prayer Service for Boston

April 18, 2013

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Summary of today’s show: An interfaith prayer service for the City of Boston, especially those injured and killed in the bombings at the Boston Marathon was held in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross today and Scot Landry, Fr. Roger Landry, and Susan Abbott discussed the remarks by Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Gov. Deval Patrick, and President Barack Obama, all of which referenced the role of faith in recovering and responding to the violent acts we witnessed.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River

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Today’s topics: Interfaith Prayer Service for Boston

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and noted that Gregory Tracy is out today to attend the funeral of his grandmother and asked for prayers for him and his family. Scot noted that today an interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was attended by many faith leaders as well as Mayor Tom Menino, Gov. Deval Patrick, and President Obama. Susan said it was a beautifully done service without showboating or grandstanding. She said it’s a sign of hope.

Fr. Roger Landry said it’s highly significant that we embraced the world in a cathedral dedicated to a cross we call holy. This holy week started with a day we’d call Good Monday, when so many suffered. But we remember the cross is not just a symbol of pain and suffering, but love that make suffering bearable. He thinks the president did a good job in trying to describe the resilience we talk about. He said it’s good that it was there. The motto of the Church could be “Here comes everybody.” To everyone who think the president shouldn’t be there should get over it. What’s important is that we at least pray together. To welcome them into our home was an opportunity for us to be together as we look to God how to carry this cross.

Scot said we are a nation that is increasingly secular, but we all came together to pray as a society and that we are able to facilitate that prayer is an honor. We must also differentiate between the office of the President or mayor or governor and the politician who holds office and be able to stand behind that office. We must also welcome people. Some of the greatest saints are those who most persecuted Christians and we must be open to the working of the Holy Spirit.

We now heard Cardinal Seán’s remarks at the service:

My dear brothers, sisters and friends.

On behalf of our Catholic community, I wish to welcome all of you here to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. It is an honor to have our President, the Governor, and our Mayor here with us this morning. We are grateful to Governor Patrick for initiating this ecumenical and interfaith prayer service. We are delighted that Metropolitan Methodius and so many leaders from the various churches and faith communities could join us here today.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked me to communicate to you his sentiments of love and support. The Holy Father invokes God’s peace upon our dead, consolation upon the suffering and God’s strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. The Holy Father prays that we will be united in the resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good, working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations to come.

This year’s Patriots’ Day celebrations were marred by an act of senseless violence that has caused all of us great shock and pain. It made us relive the horror of the September 11th terrorist attack and is a stark reminder of the darkness that can lurk in the human heart and produce such evil. And yet the same tragedy brought us together as a community like nothing else ever could. The generous and courageous response of so many assures us that there resides in people’s hearts a goodness that is incredibly selfless. We saw that when summoned by great events we can be remarkably committed to the well-being of others, even total strangers. We become a stronger people, a more courageous people, and a more noble people. The police, emergency workers and even bystanders and passers-by did not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to help the injured and the frightened.

Our presence here is an act of solidarity with those who lost their lives or were injured in the explosions and an expression of our desire to support them and their families and loved ones.

This Patriots’ Day shakes us out of our complacency and indifference and calls us to focus on the task of building a civilization that is based on love, justice, truth and service. We do not want to risk losing the legacy of those first patriots who were willing to lay down their lives for the common good. We must overcome the culture of death by promoting a culture of life, a profound respect for each and every human being made in the image and likeness of God, and we must cultivate a desire to give our lives in the service of others.

Last week, I was in Galilee on the Mount of the Beatitudes with 30 priests from Boston. There we prayed together and listened to the very Gospel that was read for us here this morning. The Sermon on the Mount is a description of the life of the people gathered by and around the Lord. Often in the Gospels, we can see the contrast between the crowd and the community. The crowd is made up of self-absorbed individuals, each one focused on his or her own interests in competition with the conflicting projects of others. A community is where people come to value each other, and find their own identity in being part of something bigger than themselves, working together for the common good.

The Sermon on the Mount, in many ways, is the Constitution of the people called to live a new life. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with offenses, by reconciliation. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with violence, by nonviolence. He gives us a new way to deal with money, by sharing and providing for those in need. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with leadership, by drawing upon the gift of every person, each one a child of God.

In the face of the present tragedy, we must ask ourselves what kind of a community do we want to be, what are the ideals that we want to pass on to the next generation. It cannot be violence, hatred and fear. The Jewish people speak of Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world.” God has entrusted us with precisely that task, to repair our broken world. We cannot do it as a collection of individuals; we can only do it together, as a community, as a family. Like every tragedy, Monday’s events are a challenge and an opportunity for us to work together with a renewed spirit of determination and solidarity and with the firm conviction that love is stronger than death.

May ours be the sentiments of St. Francis of Assisi, who prayed:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Scot asked Susan for her favorite part of Cardinal Seán’s remarks. Susan said seeing our Cardinal in his Franciscan robes ending with this prayer to St. Francis was powerful. On Patriots Day, she thought how she takes things for granted and how everything is gift. On the need for the community to repair the world, she was reminded of John Donne who said no man is an island unto himself. Sure, we have differences, but we have to find the common good in service of that.

Scot said Cardinal Seán said we should respond to this event in love. We learn from it and repair what needs to be repaired in the world. Fr. Roger said it was a tremendous talk on a day in which we heard tremendous rhetoric. Cardinal Seán went beyond eloquent and went to the root causes of what happened on Monday. Then he described a program that we can continue the work that was begun after the bombs exploded. The root causes are in the human heart, what happened with Adam and Eve. The response, like the first patriots, we must overcome a culture of death by promoting a culture of life. In a culture where some people can choose which other people can die, whether through euthanasia, capital punishment or abortion, then we’re going to have people with homemade bombs killing the innocent. A profound respect for every human being created in the image and likeness of God is where we begin.

Then he talked about a far more important constitution than the US Constitution, which was the Sermon on the Mount.

2nd segment: Scot noted he was at the cathedral about 6:45am and the church ended up being extremely packed. He said from about 7:15 to about 10:30 is like any gathering of people, talking among themselves. About 10:30, Fr. O’Leary, the rector, asked people to take their seats and then it was extremely quiet and reflective, which was striking to Scot. It was prayerful.

Scot there was a blend of music from various church choirs along with the cathedral festival choir. Then Rev. Liz Walker, the former WBZ news anchor, welcomed everyone and one by the one the presenters came up. Scot said Mayor Tom Menino had told an aide that he was going to deliver his address standing even if it killed him. He is in a wheelchair after having broken his leg recently. Susan said it was quite an act of determination. Scot said Menino gave a very impassioned speech and this might be one of the best talks he’s ever given. He thinks in his 20 years as Boston mayor, today’s speech will be listed as one of his best. Scot thought Menino was going to break down as he said he’s never been prouder of the city of Boston. Susan noted that a lot has been happening in Menino’s life, including medical issues and announcing he won’t be running for re-election.

Scot listed the other religious speakers and then said Gov. Deval Patrick spoke of all the things he is thankful for this week. Patrick also said Massachusetts invented America:

Massachusetts invented America. And America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals. And we have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play.

Scot and Susan discussed whether this was an overstatement. Fr. Roger thought it was hyperbole. He remarked on the opening of his talk in which he said Scripture tells us to give thanks and in every Mass we ask God to help us in all things to give thanks.

In my faith tradition, scripture teaches: “In every thing give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) That isn’t always easy to do. On Monday afternoon, I wasn’t feeling it. What I felt, what so many of us felt then, was shock and confusion and anger.

But the nature of faith, I think, is learning to return to the lessons even when they don’t make sense, when they defy logic. And as I returned to those lessons this week, I found a few things to be thankful for.

Scot said even in this week there is so much to give God thanks for, the acts of heroism, bravery, and perseverance. Susan said that’s the tension and balance of marking something so sad, but realizing we are called to give thanks and there is a reason to give thanks, which is that Jesus Christ died for us and saved us from sin. She added that evangelization is hearing an elected official talk about he takes comfort in his faith.

Then President Obama talked about the Scripture passage of running the race with endurance. Then he also said:

I’m here today on behalf of the American people with a simple message: Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands with you. Because, after all, it’s our beloved city, too. Boston may be your hometown, but we claim it, too. It’s one of America’s iconic cities. It’s one of the world’s great cities. And one of the reasons the world knows Boston so well is that Boston opens its heart to the world.

He talked about welcoming immigrants, students, talents in the arts and sciences and all the people who come to the Marathon each April. Scot said it meant a lot to him to hear the president saying that. Susan said author Dennis Lehane wrote this week that they picked the wrong city, which wasn’t pugnacious bluster, but a measure of our resilience.

Obama continued:

Like you, Michelle and I have walked these streets. Like you, we know these neighborhoods. And like you, in this moment of grief, we join you in saying — “Boston, you’re my home.” For millions of us, what happened on Monday is personal. It’s personal.

Fr. Roger talked about how Bostonians can have a reputation for provincialism or for being smug about our sports teams, but at this time all that set is set aside. He said he’s heard on sports radio that The Standells’ “Dirty Water” which Obama referenced is classic because it takes a criticism of Boston and makes it something to be proud of.

That’s why a bomb can’t beat us. That’s why we don’t hunker down. That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love — and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life, and to walk our cities, and to cheer for our teams. When the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again — to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans — (laughter) — the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. (Applause.)

Scot said it resonated with him, even though he thinks of himself as mature than identifying so deeply with our sports teams. He thinks he connected with Bostonians on an emotional level. Susan said that image of a sports champion team going down Boylston Street in Duck Boats is an iconic image.

Scripture teaches us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” And that’s the spirit you’ve displayed in recent days. When doctors and nurses, police and firefighters and EMTs and Guardsmen run towards explosions to treat the wounded — that’s discipline. When exhausted runners, including our troops and veterans — who never expected to see such carnage on the streets back home — become first responders themselves, tending to the injured — that’s real power. When Bostonians carry victims in their arms, deliver water and blankets, line up to give blood, open their homes to total strangers, give them rides back to reunite with their families — that’s love.

Scot said in four sentences Obama weaved four moving visual images together. Susan said it was beautifully balanced. Fr. Roger said the real beauty goes beyond the eloquence to the fact that it’s true. The greatest eloquence is bringing the beauty of what everyone has observed and putting it in words. That’s why we have poet laureates to highlight beauty.

The most touching part for Scot was when Obama talked about Krystle Campbell.

Today our prayers are with the Campbell family of Medford. They’re here today. Their daughter, Krystle, was always smiling. Those who knew her said that with her red hair and her freckles and her ever-eager willingness to speak her mind, she was beautiful, sometimes she could be a little noisy, and everybody loved her for it. She would have turned 30 next month. As her mother said through her tears, “This doesn’t make any sense.”

Scot said that hearing the President of the United States eulogizing their daughter before the world must have meant a lot to her family. Susan said when a family goes through a loss, they look for comfort and these words can help a family find some solace.

Scot said the president also spoke about the other two deceased victims as well. Fr. Roger said it was implicit in the remarks that every life is valuable. In this situation we’re able to realize that every life is valuable. The fact that the president eulogized these three in his remarks because of what it teaches us. Our Father in heaven also loves his children and offers each one something far greater than a presidential eulogy.

And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. (Applause.) Bet on it. (Applause.)

Scot said this remark too connected with him both rationally and emotionally. It was important that this be said in this week, that we respond to terrorism by saying the next marathon will be the best ever. Fr. Roger said bigger than the marathon is the race we need to run with endurance. There is an urgency to the race of creating a culture of love, life and justice. That’s far greater than the most populous Boston Marathon in history.

Scot said it was the largest interfaith prayer service he’s ever been part of, certainly with as many people from so many different faiths, which is encouraging in our increasingly secular culture.

Fr. Roger said our first response should always be to pray and we have the tremendous example of president and governor. We were at our best today in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

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