Los Angeles Times

Americans seek solace in prayer

On their first day of rest after five days of horror, worshipers in Chicago and across the nation prayed for the victims, their relatives, the faithful and those who have lost faith.

"We pray for all those who seek God, for all those who question God, for all those who doubt God and for all those who are moved to ask God `Why?'" Deacon Robert Jacobs told 1,500 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York's largest church.

Some ministers and parishioners ventured explanations for a tragedy of an unprecedented scale, and others suggested that answers will be a long time coming. All called for prayers for the dead and their families as rescue workers continued to search for survivors.

At Holy Family Catholic Church in Chicago, about 1,200 firefighters--many in uniform and helmets--gathered to honor their fallen brothers and sisters in New York.

About 4,000 people crowded Washington National Cathedral, where they prayed for America's enemies and asked nations to set aside ancient bitterness.

Catholics who had not been to church in months showed up for 8 a.m. mass at St. Clement Catholic Church in Lincoln Park. And more than 60 congregants at Success Church Ministries, an evangelical church in a small storefront in Beverly, sang loudly of God's glory as if to drown out the forces of evil that had descended on New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

Rev. Louis Farrakhan told an overflow crowd at Mosque Maryam of "perpetrators [who] have lost their humanity and become like wild beasts."

And thousands of Mexican-Americans attended an outdoor mass Sunday at 26th Street and Rockwell Avenue in Chicago.

The mass, organized by La Ley, a Spanish-language radio station, and St. Anthony's parish in Cicero, drew a large but solemn crowd intent on expressing sympathy for the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks and support for the U.S.--in many cases a recently adopted homeland.

The purpose of the event was "to show that the Hispanic community, especially the Mexican community ... stands with the United States," said Mario Paez, general manager of La Ley, WLEY.

"People just kept pouring in," for the 8 a.m. mass, he said. "We expected a large crowd, but nothing of that magnitude."

In New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the names of the living and the dead echoed throughout the Gothic structure as Jacobs read a list of people killed in the twin towers of the World Trade Center and congregants called out the names of missing friends and family members.

In Washington, Very Rev. Canon Nathan Baxter, dean of the cathedral, called for justice instead of retribution, a sentiment echoed in sermons nationwide.

"We must lay aside the quick, potent energy of blind rage," he said. "America, this nation, is a good nation of good people with a good heart."

Sister Aron Brown, of Shining Star Missionary Baptist Church in Beverly, urged President Bush to pray for guidance.

"He should go off by himself and say: `Lord, I don't know what to do,'" she said. Before attacking Afghanistan, she said, the president should remember "they have women and children too."

Farrakhan said U.S. leaders need to re-evaluate a foreign policy that he said is responsible for much of the anger against America.

"We have to look at what we have done to produce this," he said.

Muslim neighbors invited

After leaders of St. Thomas United Methodist Church in Glen Ellyn heard about last week's violence against Muslims, they decided to invite members of a mosque being built across the street to their Sunday celebration.

More than 150 members of the Ahmadiyya Movement joined St. Thomas worshipers for a service that blended teachings about Christ with passages from the Koran.

A banner with the white dove that symbolizes the Holy Spirit hung in the background as guests exchanged the traditional Muslim greeting of peace: "Assalaam alaikum."

Worshipers of both faiths stood defiantly--proclaiming their unity as proof that the evil of terrorism was no match for the basic goodness of mankind.

"It is the desire of terrorists to divide us in our fear and turn us against each other," said Rev. Diana Facemyer, pastor of St. Thomas. "Don't let them win."

Mubasher Ahmad, regional missionary of the Ahmadiyya Movement, said it is clear that Islam condemns the terrorists' actions. He said murder "is one of the most heinous crimes" and suicide is "unforgivable," according to his faith.

Although vandals had damaged the California mosque attended by his brother and sister, Abdul Baseer of Schaumburg said Sunday's celebration was proof that the majority of Americans stand in solidarity with Muslims in this country.

"In the end, this shows that there is unity, that we really are one community," he said.

Chicago fire chaplain Rev. Thomas Mulcrone conducted a special service to mourn the dead New York City firefighters and help combat despair among his own men and women.

"I felt there was a lot of hopelessness in our ranks," Mulcrone said after the service. "We needed this mass, this time together, to fill our souls. Something good has got to come of this. Something."

The two cities' fire departments have been especially close over the years, adopting similar tactics, getting to know each other personally, even staging friendly competitions to decide who's the best.

"Frankly, it's scary how much the same our two departments are," Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce said. "Our last names are the same, even our faces look the same. The same humor, the same personalities. It's like our force was hit."

After mass, hundreds of firefighters stood at attention outside the firehouse across the street as a bugler played taps.

Remembrance in Oak Brook

At Christ Church of Oak Brook, 1,500 friends and relatives gathered for a memorial to Rev. Jeffrey P. Mladenik, an associate pastor killed aboard one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

"God put him on that plane to be with those people," said Sherri Adams, the church's director of workplace ministry. "I believe God was using him till the very end to save souls."

Sister Arneda Williams of Success Church doesn't know any of the victims, but she says she feels close to the families thousands of miles away.

"My heart is very heavy this morning as I think of children who don't have a mother," she told worshipers. "We have to remember those lost lives ... and let us remember all our healing comes from God."

Denise Krauza, 22, who came to St. Clement Church for the first time since Easter to experience some of that healing, said, "It feels good to see people together and pray knowing that the events of this past week are on all our minds."

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