“But whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of all light, and he shines forever without change or shadow.” James 1:17
That fateful day I found myself standing at a small window. I don’t recall how I got there.
Waking up that morning was a blur. I went through the motions but the details escape me. I stared out the window for the longest time unsure of what I was feeling. So many thoughts swirled around in my head and my heart. I knew the events of the previous day were monumental, not just for me but for the whole country and maybe even the world. The implications of just how huge were still unclear but of one thing I was certain – nothing would ever be the same, not for me or the life I was trying to lead.
As I stood at the window, I got completely lost in my own head. I felt chilled to the bone despite the balmy temperature outside. The sun shone so brightly through the window, I needed my sunglasses indoors. Yesterday was much the same. The tragedy that had taken place twenty-four hours earlier seemed surreal as many of the interviewed eyewitnesses had attested to. Indeed, this unforeseen tragedy was beyond anything I had ever experienced in my lifetime. The entire country, the government and its people, were stunned!
I backed away from the window and gazed at the hermitage, a tiny cottage resting on ten acres of hills and valleys covered by lush green lawns. Ahead was a converted mansion shaded by evergreen and oak trees with a welcoming floral garden that stood in contrast to the adjacent dilapidated building that once served as a horse stable. These grounds were nestled on the outskirts of Coconut Grove, New Jersey. I was a novice in a religious community occupying the hermitage on one of my required desert days. I valued this time spent alone, just me and my Lord.
I usually took advantage of this time to catch up on sleep, quiet my mind, and pray. My visits were sometimes spent complaining to Jesus about my chronic pain, even to the point of crying. I looked forward to them each month but not on this particular day, the day after America was attacked. Deep in my soul, in parts of myself I hadn’t known existed, I knew that everything had changed. Thankfully my family, friends, and I had not suffered any personal losses. But so many others knew of someone who had perished or lost a loved one that day. And yet the overall devastation felt personal. I was certain God was asking something profound of me as a result of this horrific event. But what could it possibly be?
As I spoke to Him aloud, I imagined God being bombarded with requests from all kinds of people, even those He created and loved but had never heard from before. I didn’t cry or shed any tears over the tragedy at that moment because the pain I felt was so deep inside me, it was untouchable. No amount of tears could release my sadness. I needed to know what God was trying to tell me or show me through this tragedy. Somewhere in the chaos was an answer.
I took a walk outside to pray the Rosary. I begged the Lord to open my eyes and heart so that I could hear Him. Shortly into my walk, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit giving me a powerful revelation. So strong was the message, my breath was taken away, leaving me light-headed, and in fear of passing out. So I scurried back to the hermitage and entered a miniature room that seemed even smaller than usual. The walls felt like they were closing in on me. I gasped for air and flung myself onto the sofa bed, grabbing for the arms to steady myself. I begged the Lord to help me calm down while I pondered what, exactly it was, He was asking of me. I asked Jesus to clarify my understanding of what was happening and the implications it would have for my life and my calling.
After a few minutes, my breathing returned to normal and my thoughts came back into focus. The revelation became clear; I realized that everything had truly changed. Nothing was the same nor would it ever be. I came to understand that the minute details of those who lost their lives that day – their social or economic status, how many children they had, their professions, where they lived – in the end – none of that mattered because in an instant, all of that changed. But one person and one thing remained unchanged by the tragic events – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believed in my heart that God was deeply saddened by the devastation unfolding before us but He had not changed. He would forever be the same – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Knowing this changed everything for me too. I knew I was being called to dedicate my life entirely to Him, the only one unchanged by the events of September 11, 2001.