I would like to invite you to attend A Concert for Peace, this coming Sunday, April 21 at 7 o’clock at the Church of St. Stephen, 151 East 28th St., between 3rd and Lexington Aves. in Manhattan. This will be an opportunity for us to come together and be united through music at this difficult time. A number of friends and I will perform a program dedicated to the heroes of the Boston Marathon. Admission is free, but a free-will offering will be accepted to benefit those affected by the tragedy.
Patriots’ Day has always been a very memorable day for me. Observed as a civic holiday in Massachusetts, it commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the start of the American Revolutionary War. As a child, there would be a routine to the day that would be repeated year after year.
My father and I would set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. and, by 5:00 a.m., we were on the road, driving to Lexington to watch the re-enactment of the battle there. I recall Paul Revere riding his horse to the Battle Green, calling out, “The British are coming!”, followed by the Red Coats marching into town. Shortly thereafter, the shot heard ’round the world indeed marked the start of the Revolution.
After the re-enactment, we would walk to a nearby church for a pancake breakfast. By 9:00 a.m., we were back home, where we rested and prepared for the next event of the day, heading into Downtown Boston to watch the thousands of runners participating in the Boston Marathon.
My mother was an avid runner and she ran the Boston Marathon twice in 1988 and in 1990. As we watched the race, she would point out certain marathon celebrities, among them, Johnny Kelley, a man who ran the Boston Marathon for more than fifty consecutive years (well into his 80s) and Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father/son duo, where the father would push his handicapped son in a wheelchair for the entire 26.2 miles.
The Boston Marathon now brings nostalgia for me, especially after my mother’s death in 2010. The tragic events that took place yesterday afternoon only added to my sadness, especially since I, as a native Bostonian, share a deep connection with the marathon.
After returning home from a lunch on the Hudson on a beautiful spring afternoon, I received a text from my youngest brother, Daniel, asking if I had heard about the explosion at the finish line of the marathon and to tell me that my father and younger brother, Tim, were but a short distance from the finish line at the time of the explosion. They were safe, unharmed, and were rushing to safety. At that point, the depth of the tragedy began to sink in. I was able to stream one of Boston’s local news stations and remained glued to the television throughout the day. When I retired around midnight, there were still very few facts: three were dead and about one hundred were injured. Who is responsible for this action and the motives behind it were not yet known.
Waking up this morning, I learned the sad news that an eight-year-old boy from the neighborhood where I grew up was one of the three who died yesterday. His father was running the marathon and he was at the finish line with his mother and siblings. One of the pictures of young Martin Richard struck me. It was taken after his First Communion. The background was all too familiar to me: the steps of St. Ann’s Church in Neponset, my home parish, where I received my First Communion and Confirmation, where I served as an altar boy, a lector, and, in high school, as Director of Music and Organist. If it wasn’t enough for this tragedy to happen in Boston, it strikes even closer to home knowing that one of the victims was an innocent, happy young boy “from the neighborhood”, a characteristic of so many of us who grew up there. While it may be described as “tough”, Dorchester is anything but that right now. The neighborhood is deeply grieving a young man whose future was horribly ended yesterday. In times of tragedy, neighbors open their homes to each other, because we’re all family.
As I write, we still don’t know who did this or why he/she/they did it. It is never easy to comprehend why people commit such graves acts of evil. It is even harder to grasp when we have neither the who nor the why.
However, Bostonians, indeed all Americans, will not succumb to this act of terrorism. We will grow stronger because of it. In a telegram to Boston’s archbishop, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Pope Francis “prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good.” Bostonians will do just that.
The City of Boston is a sad place today. Amidst the sadness, however, there is both charity and love. Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.
Ubi caritas et amor, Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)
Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Most of my friends are well aware that I grew up in Boston. In addition to reading the New York Times every morning, I also check out the headlines and the obituaries of the Boston Globe.
Over the past few months, I have taken an interest in reading about Boston’s mayor, Tom Menino. Mayor Menino has been in office since 1993, when his predecessor, Ray Flynn, was nominated by President Clinton to serve as the Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See.
Mayor Menino recently announced that he will not seek re-election this November. This comes after the mayor spent several months convalescing from some serious health scares. This morning, the mayor underwent a successful surgery to repair a bone in his leg, which he fractured after falling yesterday.
Mayor Menino has done a lot of amazing things to maintain Boston’s place among America’s great cities. (The Red Sox even won the World Series twice during his term in office!) Let’s keep him in our prayers and hope that he will overcome his current health issues, enabling him to end his twenty-year run with great success.
I am not an outwardly emotional person. However, watching the Holy Father stop the popemobile and embrace this exceptional child (as Cardinal Cushing of Boston called them) brought me to tears.
My uncle Joe was born with cerebral palsy, so this gesture has some very special meaning to me. Despite all of the challenges he has in his life, Joe never fails to express his love to his family and friends.
Thank you, Pope Francis, for reciprocating the love to this dear boy.