I recently visited New York City over the weekend and was looking for a nearby Roman Catholic church to attend Sunday mass. Using the handy masstimes.org website I found St. Francis of Assisi church on West 31st Street to be the closest to my hotel.
It is a beautiful church and the priest and cantor created an equally beautiful celebration of the mass. As I was returning to my pew from receiving communion I noticed a memorial of some type in the side aisle. I stopped to read the plaque which noted it was a single rose rising from three pieces of mangled steel from the World Trade Center and commemorates Friar Mychal Judge who was in residence at St. Francis of Assisi and Carol LaPlante, a secular Franciscan and parishioner, both of whom perished that fateful day.
As was widely publicized at the time, Father Judge served as the chaplain to the New York City Fire Department and was killed while performing his priestly duties at the scene of the attacks on 9/11. His was the first recorded death of the World Trade Center tragedy. To further add to the historic significance of my visit to West 31st Street, when I left the church I noticed Ladder 24/Engine 1 firehouse directly across the street and in a small window was a glass memorial depicting firefighters removing Father Judge’s body from the World Trade Center rubble with the words of a prayer that he prayed every day:
Lord, take me where You want me to go;
Let me meet who You want me to meet;
Tell me what You want me to say;
And keep me out of Your way.
So simple a prayer but so powerful. While these words could apply to almost any interactions we have during the course of a day, I thought them most appropriate for those of us who either stand outside abortion centers offering hopeful alternatives to the women going inside or for those times when we are asked to support our pro-life views. The last two lines especially sum up how I feel in these situations. I want to say the right thing, the helpful thing and I do not want to create stumbling blocks to getting the pro-life message out. As the vessel that God uses to proclaim His message of the sanctity of life, I find this prayer comforting. I need not avoid these situations in fear that I am not up to the task. He will put me where I need to be. He will ensure the message that leaves my lips is a thoughtful and considerate one. He will not allow my thoughts, words or deeds to create more confusion or upheaval.
How blessed was I to have happened on this street and to have experienced the touching memorials that resulted from such a devastating national tragedy. But then again all I need to do is recite the first line of this prayer to know that on that morning in that city the Lord took me where He wanted me to go.