Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
If you have Apple TV+, after watching Ted Lasso (the best comedy ever made for TV – not joking), catch a filmed performance of the brilliant musical Come From Away.
I know what some of you are thinking…musical? No, thank you Fr. Kevin. Do yourself a favor and watch it. Please.
Come From Away tells the true story of a strange occurrence that happened in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, 21 years ago (!!). [Side note, there are people who can purchase alcohol today who were not born when the World Trade Center was destroyed.] If you remember, all air traffic over the United States was halted, which meant that all the planes coming in from Europe and beyond had to be diverted, diverted to Newfoundland and the town of Gander. Thirty eight planes and over 6,000 people found themselves in a remote part of Canada for several days.
Gander was once a happening place. Since air travel couldn’t cover the amount of distance that planes do now, Gander was a stopover for refueling for trans- Atlantic flights. But as planes could fly further and further, Gander lost its prominence. That is until terrorists started flying passenger jets into buildings in New York and Washington D.C. Suddenly, Gander became the Holiday Inn of the world.
The essence of the musical is that the people of Newfoundland were achingly sweet, which contrasts to the violence and brutality and horror of the 9/11 attacks. Against the backdrop of explosions and chaos, there is the kindness and compassion of these simple good- hearted folk.
There are two scenes that blew me away.
Obviously, feeding and sheltering so many people was a bit of a hassle. And so they sent some of the passengers out to find barbecue grills so that they can cook dinner. One such passenger, an African- American, wanders into the back yard of a Gander resident and starts to take his grill without asking. He is understandably nervous about how this action looks.
Out of the house a voice is heard: “Hey, what are you doing?” The passenger stops and stammers about the people from the flights and the need to feed everyone and how they need to borrow the grill. “Yeah, I know, there’s another one in the garage, I want to make sure you got that one too.” Needless to say, the humanity and gentleness of the Newfoundlanders was epic.
The second scene caused me to have an out-of-body experience. (It happens to me watching movies.) A woman from New York is anxious about her son, a fire- man who works in lower Manhattan. (Sadly, he is a casualty of the day.) She and her host go to the Catholic Church to pray. Another character who is gay also finds himself in the church. He mentions to the audience that it has been years since he has been to church, but he heard a melody in his dreams and he couldn’t quite remember what it was. As he enters the church where the women are praying, he remembers the tune, it is a song that he sang as a child in Catholic School: The Prayer of St. Francis. He sings:
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
The women join in the singing:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
A Gander native meets a rabbi who was on one of the flights. He tells him that he was originally from Poland and his parents sent him over before World War II broke out. They warned him not to tell anyone that he was Jewish. And he didn’t, not even his wife. But after 9/11, he needs to tell someone. He and the Rabbi begin to pray in Hebrew.
Meanwhile, a Moslem is told by a resident that if he wants to pray he could go to the library and find a qui- et place. He talks about how he is often looked upon with suspicion. (Even before we knew that the terror- ists were Moslem.) He begins to pray in the scene.
Then two women who are Hindu, begin to pray as well.
Suddenly the scene is a wondrous cacophony of prayer asking God for guidance and wisdom in the midst of the uncertainty of the attack. The song reaches its crescendo:
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek So much to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Goosebumps!! I have heard that song many times in my life, but the import of it in this show hit me like a ton of bricks.
That song, against the background of what we remem- ber this weekend, the horrific attacks of 9/11, remind us clearly and vividly, that we are called as Christians, as Catholics, to be instruments of peace. 9/11 remind- ed us, in no uncertain terms, that this would neither be easy or painless. But if I have learned anything over the past twenty one years, it is that we as a communi- ty NOW MORE THAN EVER, need to live this call out.
Why, you ask? I will let St. Francis tell it:
Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life