The day before and the day after
I write this on the evening of September 11.
For us the shorthand “9/11” has entered into our lexicon.
This fifteenth anniversary of all that 9/11 means leads me to reflect on the days before and after in our Liturgical Calendar. If we examine those dates we see an interesting theme.
September 10th was until 1969 the feast throughout the Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, a medieval Augustinian Friar who spent many years preaching and celebrating the Sacraments. A feature of his life and spirituality was a deep devotion to the Souls in Purgatory and the need of the faithful on earth to pray earnestly for the release of those caught by death suddenly and unexpectedly into the joys of Heaven. He also preached about preparing for a good and holy death. He was graced with the foreknowledge of the date of his death and for days heard Angels singing as the day approached and arrived. He died on September 10, 1305 and was canonized in 1446. In the liturgical reforms of 1969 he was regarded as not being “of universal significance” and his feast was removed from the General Calendar. However, he is STILL a canonized Saint and venerated in Tolentino in Italy and in churches and institutions named in his honor.
September 12th was, and still is, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. Like the feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentino the feast was removed from the calendar in 1969 but happily restored by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002. As we all know, that Pope had a deep love and veneration for Mary. The feast is of course devotional and part of the Church’s extolling of the Blessed Virgin. However, the date, September 12th, is no accident. It was on that date in 1683 that a Christian army under the leadership of the King of Poland, John Sobieski, and Charles Duke of Lorraine attacked and routed a vast Turkish army that had been besieging the city of Vienna. The army of the Sultan had come to destroy the capital of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor and to begin the long-awaited Islamic conquest of Christian Europe. The crushing defeat of the Turks marked the high water mark of Ottoman jihad against the Catholic Church and Papacy. Not again for over 400 years would militant Islamism pose a serious threat to the culture and religion of the West.
It has been said that there are “no coincidences for a believer”.
Surely these to feasts, before and after September 11th, give us food for thought and prayer. A declining and increasingly desiccated and religionless West seems not to know how to meet the latest challenge today.
Let us fall back on the powerful “weapons” of our ancient and enduring Faith.