Fior go bas – faithful until death

It’s the story I tell every year on this date. And still the tears come as their faces etch in my mind.
Eight years ago today, I was sitting in my office at the Diocese of Scranton tribunal. I wasn’t suppose to be there. Sonya and I were getting ready to move to Florida that weekend. The Diocese of Venice in Florida had offered me a full-time position with the tribunal, and Scranton tribunal staff had taken me out to lunch the day before, to say our goodbyes.
I arrived home that evening. My in-laws had come down from Canada to help us pack, and everything was boxed and ready to go except for a few necessities. This would be our last week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and with New York City a mere two-and-a-half hour drive, we had planned on taking the day off to visit the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center.
But it didn’t happen. We received a phone call late that night from a hospital back in Canada. Sonya’s grandfather had suffered a stroke. Plans were changed, and by the time we woke up the next morning my in-laws had rushed back to the ICU in Hamilton.
So here I was sitting in my office at the Scranton Tribunal, grumbling over a contentious divorce when I should have been taking in the New York Harbor skyline with my wife and daughter.
“A plane hit the World Trade Center,” Linda shouted.
Everyone came running out of their offices and into the conference room. Someone – I think it was Joe – turned on the television. We watched as the building burned, wondering what had happened. Then the second plane hit. Both towers were burning.
We no longer wondered what was happening. Our thoughts turned to the many tradesmen, firefighters and police officers who lived in the easternmost part of the diocese, along the Pennsylvania/New York border, who commuted to the Big Apple each day. Catholics to whom we ministered to in the diocese.
The the Pentagon was hit. Some of the tribunal staff had family working there. Our thoughts shifted to them. Were they safe? We didn’t know. The phone system was down.
Sonya and I were suppose to make our first stop in Washington, DC that weekend, to visit with David Alexander. David worked across the street from the Pentagon. Was he okay? There was no dial tone to his cell.
And of course our state was hit when United 93 went down. It could have been a lot worse, as we saw next door in New York and about five hours south in D.C. But the passengers rose up, fought back, and sacrificed their own lives to stop the terrorists and protect their fellow Americans. It was a strange moment for me. It still is. My feelings clashed between the horror of what happened, and the pride I felt for those passengers. As Kathy Shaidle and I wrote when dedicating Tyranny of Nice to their memory: “Fated to become victims, they chose to die heroes.”
And so as I do every September 11 since, I dedicate three songs. The first is to the memory of United 93 heroes. Here is Jewel’s performance of Hands on Letterman, which touched many of us and brought us together as we tried to make sense of what happened:

This second video is dedicated to American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines (especially my blogmate Eric) who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom since then:

Finally, I dedicate this video to the Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan over the past year. In particular, Warrant Officer Gaetan Roberge and Master Corporal Scott Francis Vernelli, both of whom I knew personally. Please keep them in prayer.

Fior go bas, my friends, you lived up to your motto of faithful until death. You can stand easy, your battle is over.
They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

UPDATED: Please give Terri a big hug from us

[Scroll down for the update]
Some sad news about Bob Schindler, one of the most decent Catholic gentlemen my family and I have even been blessed to call our friend. He passed away of a heart attack this past week. Most of you know Bob as a loving father who for years fought to save the life of his daughter Terri Schindler-Schiavo. When the state permitted the man to whom Terri was still legally married (despite the fact he was engaged to another woman) to take Terri’s life, Bob became a leading activist within the pro-life movement for people with disabilities.
Here is what Bobby Schindler, Jr., Bob’s son who is also a pro-life leader, shared about the passing of his father:
Statement from Bobby Schindler Regarding the Death of His Father, Robert Schindler

I am heartbroken over the loss of my father and yet I know at this moment he is rejoicing with my sister, Terri. My dad was a man of integrity, character and compassion who was blessed with a close and loving family. He taught all three of his children to respect and value life and to love our fellow man.
Even at the height of the battle to save my sister Terri’s life, when his patience and temperance was near exhaustion, he managed to display a gentleness of spirit. Yet it was his unfathomable strength that allowed him to shoulder up his own heartache and lead us through our darkest hour.
What greater legacy could a man leave behind?

I can understand your heartbreak, Bobby. Your father was a good man, as Sonya and I learned quickly when we joined your family on the picket line down in Florida. I will never forget Day 6 of the 2003 protest when, with Terri about to pass the point of no return, your father came over to offer us some cold drinks and Sonya a more comfortable seat.
Sonya was nine months pregnant with our second child, but she insisted we keep making the 90 minute trip each day. We asked him how he and Mary were doing.
“Worried,” he replied.
Sonya and I expressed our understanding and sympathy, that it might be too late for Terri.
“Yes, we’re worried about Terri,” Bob said. “But we’re worried about you, Sonya and the new baby too. Her due date is tomorrow, isn’t it? We will be praying for a safe delivery. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you, and make sure you let us as soon as the baby comes.”
I looked into his eyes. He was sincere. I was flabbergasted. His daughter was perilously close to being taken from him, he hadn’t slept in months, fifteen video cameras were stalking him at every second, and he was expressing concern for our little family who had come to support him.
As I struggled to make sense of this, he began to tell me about the birth of each of his children. It was then that I understood. He was a man who practiced what he preached, who was fighting not only for his daughter Terri, but for my daughter who would be born in coming days, for your daughter, for all of our children. I had known that he was sincere, that he wasn’t just show, but until that moment I had not realized the depth of his sincerity and love.
Sorry, the tears won’t allow me to go on much longer.
You’re a good man, Bob. You taught us all what a father’s love for his family really means. I pray you go strait to Heaven because you’ve done your Purgatory here on earth. And when you see Terri, please give her a hug from us.
Rest in the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, my friend.
UPDATE: Here is the original 2003 CL blog entry, written near the “hospice”, shortly after this discussion took place with Bob (Terri is doing fine, her parents are good people). For newer readers, Catholic Light was the main Catholic blog providing hospice-side updates in 2003 when the Florida judiciary ordered Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s feeding tube pulled. Here’s how I described our conversation then. I’m trying to read it myself but can’t get past the tears. It’s too much of a reminder of what a decent and loving father he was:

Terri’s parents are among the kindest and most decent people I have ever met. Before we left to return home, Terri’s father took us aside and asked if he could speak with us because he had heard from some of the nurses and paramedics at the vigil (the ones on our side) that Sonya looked like she was only a few days away from labor. He was concerned we might try and sneak up to the vigil between now and then.
To be honest, this wasn’t an unreal possibility since the hospital is about half-way between where we live and the hospice where Terri is staying. Nevertheless, Mr. Schindler said: “As a father, I’m here for my baby. We really appreciate your prayers and support, but you two need to be there for your baby now. We know you’re with us in prayer. But please come back with the baby as soon as you’re rested and able to travel.” I mention this because it is typical of the wisdom and compassion one finds with Terri’s parents. Even as they undergo such a tremendous cross, they show great consideration in generosity in wanting to make sure we weren’t neglecting our own family needs for the sake of theirs. Needless to say, we were stunned. “How could they even worry about us at a time like this?” Sonya asked. For my own part, I don’t think I could be this self-less if that was my daughter in the hospice. However, this is just one example that reveals the character of Terri’s family.

Thank-you, Bob.

To Eternal Life – Deacon Adam Scott Crowe

Today, a dear friend of my brother and his fellow classmate at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia has passed on to eternal life. Deacon Adam Crowe was only 26 years old, and was to be ordained a priest this spring for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. Deacon Crowe was a guest in our home when my brother Deacon Steve was home on free weekends. He was kind, compassionate, sharp, holy and dedicated totally to the Catholic faith and his formation to become a priest. He celebrated Steve’s ordination last June with us and he assisted at Steve’s first Mass as a deacon. He was an inspiration to us and would have been a wonderful priest.
Please pray for his family back in New York and his seminarian brothers at St. Charles, who all mourn an unexpected and profound loss.
I’m sure that Deacon Adam is on his way to rest in the Lord and to intercede for us all. May the peace of Christ be his, and be ours when God calls us home.

Categorized as Personal

Bloggers meet in CT

Fr. Jeff Keyes of the Rifugio San Gaspare blog is vacationing in Connecticut this week, and Fr. Mark Kirby, author of Vultus Christi, is back in the States after his time in Rome, so we three met today for Mass at the Benedictine convent where Fr. Mark serves as chaplain.
We sang the Gregorian ordinary (Mass XII), and a couple of the propers for the martyrs SS. Pontian and Hippolytus: the beautiful introit Salus autem and the Alleluia Te martyrum. The Sisters and the lay congregation did a fine job of singing the ordinary parts and even the tune of the Alleluia — a tune which you may hear for yourself this week, since it is also used in the Mass of Assumption Day.
Fr. Mark’s homily reminded us of Pope Pontian and the priest Hippolytus, who became his opponent and even fell into schism; yet when the Empire swept both of them into exile and hard labor, Hippolytus was reconciled with the Church and died a martyr as did Pontian: it is an encouraging example of the triumph of Christ’s love over division, and a proof that “even dissidents can be converted”.
Here are a couple of snapshots from the Mass:
After Mass, we had lunch at an Italian caffe in New Haven, chatted there for most of the afternoon, and attended Vespers at the Dominican nuns’ monastery in North Guilford.
As always, it was a joy to enter into the company of two such faithful men of God.

Categorized as Personal