The notion of “forgive and forget” sounds nice, but the forgetting part is not realistic and, more importantly, it’s not healthy. Remembering is an important part of our spirituality.
Presently, as a country, we are remembering the events of September 11, 2001, as we mark the 20th anniversary of this tragedy. We remember, not in order to hold on to anger and hatred, but as a way of honoring those who died and as a way of contributing to the healing needed by those who lost loved ones, as well as our whole country. While memories can be painful, by remembering and even revisiting painful events, we are able—with the grace of God—to experience transformation and disarm the pain. The alternative is avoidance, which leads to repressed emotions and destructive behaviors.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters have taught us the importance of remembering with regards to the Holocaust. One reason for remembering is practical: by recalling painful moments of our history, we can help subsequent generations to avoid such a tragedy from happening again. But there are other reasons for remembering. By remembering, we:
- remind those who are in pain that they are not alone and they have not been forgotten or abandoned.
- make it more difficult for similar movements that are fueled by hatred to proliferate.
- make it possible to express sorrow for any ways we ourselves have contributed to hatred.
- honor those who did the right thing and responded with mercy, compassion, and courage.
- bring comfort to those who still experience pain and sorrow.
- remain on the road to healing.
- create opportunities for people to tell their stories and process their grief and pain.
- strengthen bonds with one another.
- can inspire compassionate and courageous responses to other tragedies.
For Catholics, such remembering most appropriately takes place within a context of prayer. If you are considering a communal prayer to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, consider some of the elements included in this example. Also consider including one of these 3-Minute Retreats on the theme of peace.
I end this post by sharing prayers written by children on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 that were shared with me by a catechist on that occasion:
Lord, please let us understand one another to create world peace. Let us come together in Your love. Let us treat others the way we want to be treated. Give us the gift of understanding and forgiveness. Amen.
Our heavenly Father, we pray for peace and justice all around the world. Please help to end all wars, hunger, and poverty. Please help all of the people dying from sickness. Please help all the victims of terrorism and war, and help them get to a safer place. Please lead all people to you in heaven and to an everlasting life.