‘We human beings are made to pray. Otherwise we become dislocated,’ were the words of Cardinal Vincent. To respond to this natural instinct to come together to pray with others in times of grief and crisis, a time of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and silent prayer followed by Mass was organised for Saturday, 17th June at St Pius X Church in St Charles Square.
Towards the front of the church, near the sanctuary, a memorial was set up for the victims, in the form of a cross surrounded by stones representing the 24 floors in the tower and smaller stones representing the families who were resident in the tower.
The number of people gathered in prayer grew steadily during the time of Adoration and many more flocked to the church for Mass. Among them were survivors, families and friends of those who had died or were still missing, neighbours, teachers from local schools, members of the emergency services, and well-wishers of other faiths who simply wanted to join the community in prayer and remembrance.
The church was full to capacity, with many more standing at the back and in the foyer. The mood was subdued with a hushed silence. Even the young children who might have normally played in the foyer with their friends, were conversing quietly and pointing towards a poster with the photos of residents who were still missing or presumed dead.
Addressing the congregation’s grief, the Cardinal explained that, at these times, we can turn to the Lord, knowing that he understands our grief and suffering, having experienced the same himself: 'Jesus died in darkness, feeling abandoned, giving a loud and terrible cry. That cry was a great prayer for us all. It still echoes today in the terrified cries of the men, women and children in the tower.'
He said that there is no pretending that there is recovery from such loss in this life. Instead, ‘God invites us to empty our hearts before him.’
Jesus taught us to pray for each other, added the Cardinal, and he intercedes for us constantly. ‘When we pray for each other, we join our prayer to his. Make your prayer a gift to all who have died and are broken hearted by the terrible fire.’
He also acknowledged the anger and sense of betrayal that were beginning to surface. He warned that there are some who would exploit that anger to incite hatred and hostility: 'Anger is energy,’ he said. ‘Let it become an energy for good, not used to deepen division and conflict. Instead, we should use this energy to fuel a deep respect for each other and for each other’s needs.’
The Cardinal commended the overwhelming compassion and generosity shown by many from the community and further afield who rushed to offer practical help and support to those who had lost everything. He thanked especially the men and women of the emergency services who worked selflessly and tirelessly, and asked the congregation to join him in a visible show of thanks.
After Mass, the Cardinal met those who had attended, sharing words of comfort and encouragement and listening to the stories of those residents who had escaped the fire, including one man who was woken by his wife and children just in time to escape the burning building. When he reached safety, he realised that he had left all his possessions behind, only taking his rosary beads, which he was clutching firmly in his hand, as a sign of this instinct for prayer which we all share by virtue of our humanity.