Thousands of people flocked to area churches for Masses and other prayers Sept. 11 in the wake of the destruction at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and in rural Pennsylvania.
"It's the only thing I can do right now," said Kathleen Guilfoy of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood. She joined about 300 people attending a Mass at noon at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in the Central West End.
"Knowing that I can find some kind of peace here is what I need now," said Guilfoy, who described the situation as upsetting and scary. She noted that she once lived in New York and she has friends there, some of whom may have been affected by the explosion and fire resulting from two hijacked plans ramming the twin towers of the skyscraper.
Katherine Anderson of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves said she was glad to learn there is a daily Mass at noon at the cathedral basilica. "My first thought was that I wanted to pray and ask Our Lord to give us peace," she noted.
Mass-goers at the cathedral basilica included tourists and travelers, younger and older people, businessmen and women, schoolchildren and others, all a mix of races, suburbanites as well as city residents. They drew comfort in the words of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Naumann, who cited the acts of incomprehensible, savage violence.
The concern over the violence was evident from the greeting of "peace be with you" to the end of Mass, with some people sobbing quietly and others deep in prayer. "We come here with heavy hearts at the tragedy that transpired in our nation today," Bishop Naumann said as he pointed to the need to pray for the victims, their loved ones, those called to minister to them, the nation's leaders and for the safety and unity of all the people.
Bishop Naumann said there is a need to acknowledge evil and to resolve to work for justice and a lasting peace. He prayed for the perpetrators and for all those who do violence "that they may forsake these acts."
The only real abiding peace "is the one that comes from the Lord," he added. "The events of the day are unnerving and unsettling ... but a moment of grace is to turn our hearts to God and realize that through him there is real security, real peace. Nothing shall shatter the peace that he grants."
Rebecca Corrington of the Cathedral Basilica Parish said she was thankful for the Bishop's words. "I think all of us want to get down on our knees and pray for our country. As soon as I saw they were having a Mass, I immediately came."
The biggest shock, she said, is knowing that the terrorism that is common in other parts of the world is now a reality in the United States.
LaDonna Mauer of the Cathedral Parish and Jeanette Pfohl of St. John Gildehaus Parish in Villa Ridge agreed that they felt shock. Dorothy Garey of Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Overland called the news unbelievable. Paul and Mary Boldy of Dallas said they are overwhelmed, but they felt lucky to be in a church where the Pope once preached. Sister Ruth Yates, CSJ, added that "what else can you do but pray and draw strength from your faith."
Archbishop Justin Rigali celebrated an evening Mass Sept. 11 at the cathedral basilica attended by Cardinal William Baum of the Vatican, in town to celebrate his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination at a Mass and dinner at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. The Archbishop asked Catholics to pray at Masses this Sunday for peace and justice and for those impacted by the bombings.
In a press conference, Archbishop Rigali asked Catholics to assist stranded travelers and respond to calls for blood donors. He asked people to believe in the power of God to work despite the presence of evil, and he urged people to never to lose hope and to see what good can do.
He called the events a "turning point in the history of civilization." But, "with God's help we can rebuild."
The violence shows how little value some place on human life, he added. "Human life has to be restored to its position of dignity. Without that, we cannot have a civilization of peace."
The nation, he said, has a right to defend itself, but that is different than vengeance and retaliation.
What is needed, he said, is prayer and acts of solidarity.
In addition to prayers and Masses at parishes around the archdiocese, the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary community gathered in the Chapel of St. Joseph for a holy hour of eucharistic adoration and prayer Sept. 11. The St. Louis Forum for a Just Peace, a coalition of organizations who have opposed the economic sanctions on Iraq, held a candlelight vigil in Forest Park that same evening. The coalition added concern for the civil liberties and safety of Arab citizens of the United States and foreign nationals who, in the wake of the attacks, may suffer abuse and blame.
Bishop Edward O'Donnell of Lafayette, La., a former St. Louis auxiliary bishop, said the events bring thoughts of "the terrible terrorism that has affected all parts of this world for the past years. Certainly it is time for us to take all steps possible to achieve peace in our society."
State Rep. Jim Kreider, speaker of the Missouri House, said that steps will be taken to heighten security, but "the strength and undying spirit of our democracy must never waiver in times of crisis."