September 11th Interfaith Prayer Service

Sep 11, 2011

Welcome to Marywood University for this special interfaith prayer service to commemorate the lives of those who died ten years ago as a result of the tragedies that occurred in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and Washington, D.C. Let me begin by thanking all of you for being here. Our intention is to provide a welcoming atmosphere for people of all faiths to prayerfully gather, remember those who died, and, most importantly, recognize the ongoing spiritual call for peace among us.

I especially appeal to the younger generation to stand for peace. Some of you, for half of your lives or more, have witnessed what destruction can do to people, families, and nations. You were young children when the events of 9/11 happened. Undoubtedly, like all of us here, you were shaken by it. You had questions, doubts, fears, and perhaps a bleak view of what the future might hold. It can seem futile to talk about peace in the face of a seemingly insurmountable series of tragic events. It is easy to frame our outlooks with pillars of fear rather than build on the foundation of peace.

While we cannot erase the sadness or the loss that happened 10 years ago, we have the power to move forward—always remembering, of course, but also striving to prevail with a renewed sense of purpose and understanding.

Several years after World War II, William Faulkner became the first American novelist to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature since the war's end. In his acceptance speech, he addressed the human spirit of those around the world—especially young men and women—whose lives had been forever changed by tragedy, war, and loss. They, too, had become conditioned to expect further despair and the very decline of humankind. To them, using the male pronoun that was intended to refer to both genders, he declared:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice, which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

How do Faulkner's words speak to us today? I believe we draw more strength by cultivating unity than we ever could by sowing division. I also think the best way we can choose to prevail in our own time is by practicing, promoting, and standing for peace. As peaceful people, each one of us here is a pillar of hope in the world.

Today and always, may we open our minds and hearts, doing our part to live in harmony with one another, continuing to recognize what we have in common—ever mindful that the bridges we build today will become the pathways to peace which the next generation inherits.

As we continue to reflect on the importance of lending our energies to efforts to heal divisions of every kind in our world, we would do well to reflect on these wise insights of the writer, Richard Skinner:

Peace is not a thing to possess, but a way of possessing.
Peace is not a gift to be given, but a way of giving.
Peace is not a topic to teach, but a way of teaching.
Peace is not a theory to learn, but a way of learning.
Peace is not an opinion to hold, but a way of holding.
Peace is not a resolution of strife, but a way of striving.
Peace is not a creed to preach, but a way of preaching.
Peace is not a God to serve, but a way of serving.
Peace is not a question to ask, but a way of asking.
Peace is not an answer to seek, but a way of seeking.
Peace is not a journey's end, but a way of journeying.

May our Gracious God bless all of us, as we unite in prayer and commit to lives of peace. And may God bless our entire world!