Seven years ago this day found us at a loss for words. How does one explain what happened on that Tuesday morning which began as usual but unraveled into tragedy before lunch. The following day we had a school Mass to pray for healing of all those affected by the terrorist attacks. In the month that followed the 9/11 attacks, one of our sisters, giving a tour of the monastery crypt, was struck by the life-history of one of the crypt's "permanent residents."
Buried in a sarcophagus (pictured above surrounded by Latin students and their teacher) -- which is inscribed in Latin and littered with oddly-placed French accent marks -- is the Rev. Joseph-Pierre Picot de Limoëlan de Clorivière, called the second founder of our monastery on account of his success in erecting buildings and his expertise in educational leadership. He can also be called a "terrorist." Prior to coming to this country and studying for the priesthood, Father Clorivière was responsible for the death of over 50 innocent bystanders as part of a failed-attempt to assassinate Napoleon on Christmas Eve 1800.
On this side of eternity, we will never know what happened between Clorivière's involvement with Royalists, the fateful night which caused him to go into hiding for several months before escaping to the United States and his ordination as a priest. One, however, can only surmise that some profound conversion and transformation of life took place. This history does not ease the pain of 9/11 but it does instill a renewed sense of wonderment at the mysterious ways of the Lord. For we can never predict what will become of someone who opens himself fully to the Lord's will. Having a "terrorist" as our second founder and the namesake of one of our three monastery bells (a story for another post) makes it difficult to condemn those who commit acts of violence; it is not ours to condemn, it is only ours to commit them to the Lord's justice and mercy -- in prayer and in deed.