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What’s is it like sleeping in a martyr’s room?

Once I frequently traveled  to our Motherhouse in Paris to present workshops devoted to explaining the new technology of the Internet to confreres involvewd in  a 3 month ongoing formation proigram.,

On this occasion, I found myself in a room that I had not been in before.

During my second day of the workshop. I learned that it was once the room used by St. John Gabriel Perboyre, a Vincentian who was martyed on 9/11/ in 1840.  I will never forget the strange feeling lying in bed in a room that a saint had used for his bedroom and office when he was Director of Novices about 175 years ago. As I lay there I could not help but beg for his blessing!

I was never again privileged to stay in that room.

On this 16th anniversary of 9/11 the memories of the week in his room came flooding back.

But this time I made an explicit connection with the people who died in 9/11. They were not martyrs in the technical sense even if they died because of the hostility to a democratic way of life. In this context, I became aware of the many spouses  who subsequently found themselves sleeping in a room that had been occupied by someone who had been senselessly slaughtered in hatred.

Their experience was much different than mine. Where I had experienced something awesome and prayerful, their experience was, I am sure,  an experience of a painful absence.

Pope Francis asked of us in his words at the 9/11 memorial in 2015..

In this way, the lives of our dear ones will not be lives which will one day be forgotten.  Instead, they will be present whenever we strive to be prophets not of tearing down but of building up, prophets of reconciliation, prophets of peace.

Reflection questions

  • Do I honor the memory of all kinds of martyrs by being prophets of reconciliation?
  • What is my default position – building up or tearing down?