BOSTON — Father Tom Carzon spoke with a Boston Marathon participant on Monday who experienced both the exhilaration of finishing the run and the shock associated with the most unnatural of outcomes — bomb blasts that have taken three lives and injured nearly 180. The man needed to talk through his experience.
“What happened yesterday doesn’t make sense; it never will — but through our prayer we turn to Christ, who comes as a light shining in the darkness,” said Father Carzon during a Holy Hour held for the incident at St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, a church near the end of the marathon route.
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary run both St. Clement’s and the nearby St. Francis Chapel, a quiet oasis located in the Shops at Prudential Center. This upscale mall is adjacent to Boylston Avenue and fairly close to the finish line of the marathon. Normally scheduled daily Masses were held on Tuesday at both churches, along with the 3pm Holy Hours and a special Mass at 7pm at St. Clement’s.
On behalf of Pope Francis, the Holy See had a message on Tuesday for Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, about the horrific tragedy at the marathon.
“Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
“At this time of mourning, the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (Romans 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come,” he also said.
Marathon Monday Experiences
Marathon participants and others spoke to the Register at the Prudential Center about their experience of Monday's events.
Alicia Ramos, 31, a mother of three from Wilmington, Mass., attended one of the Masses at St. Francis.
“All I could think about was that 8-year-old boy,” said Ramos, referring to Martin Richard of Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood, who was one of the three fatalities on Monday.
“I have an 8-year-old and just, it really hits — it hits home,” said Ramos.
Ramos works as a human-resource director in the area and had stayed home on Monday, a statewide holiday in honor of Patriots Day, with her children, as they were off from school.
Jim Harding from Sarasota, Fla., has run in at least seven Boston Marathons and had finished Monday’s about 45 minutes before the blasts.
“I really felt good yesterday; it was my best — I felt the best of any Boston Marathon yet: perfect day, great weather, perfect temperature,” said Harding about his running performance before the incident.
Harding, 52, met up with his wife, Pam, at the nearby Marriott, where they were staying. She had passed by the finish line 30-45 minutes before the detonations. They went to their room, which had a view of the race route and noticed there was nobody running.
“It kind of looked like a ghost town down there,” said Pam.
They eventually got a text from a friend, who told them about the explosions.
“And we couldn’t believe that something that devastating has just happened, and we’re just kind of oblivious to it,” said Pam.
“Finishing a marathon is, you know, it’s pretty insignificant, compared to the devastation and tragedy these other families have,” said her husband.
When asked if they were religious, Pam Harding affirmed that and gently brought up the popular question of how God could allow this to happen, but also noted this could be asked about many different incidents in the world.
“It’s hard to think about that and deal with that,” she said.
Sue Paris of Syracuse, N.Y., heard the bomb blasts as she was moving away from the finish-line area in her motorized wheelchair, planning on meeting her husband, Sam, at the Colonade Hotel nearby.
Startled, Paris wondered what had happened. She went to her hotel room and turned on the television.
“I was shocked, and I was so sad. The things that I saw, what they first broadcasted, was awful,” said Paris.
After the blasts, her husband had been stopped by personnel some five miles away, near Boston College. Sam, 75, and a physician, believed he experienced hypothermia, as he got chills from stopping his run, though he was provided a reflective blanket, designed to keep runners warm, in a tent.
Eventually, a resident in the area took him into her house and provided blankets and a drink that improved his condition. The couple later reunited and attended Mass the next day at St. Francis Chapel.
Divine Mercy Reflections
After leading the Divine Mercy Chaplet during the Holy Hour at St. Clement’s, Father Carzon gave some reflections about the situation. He recounted a conversation the day before with a man who suggested they pray for whoever committed the act of terror.
Father Corazon agreed, and he asked the man how this might be suitably done. He replied by repeating part of the chaplet, “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
“That mercy of God is greater than any power in this world; that mercy of God is deeper than any wound that we carry. That mercy of God is stronger than the cowardly act that was done yesterday that’s changed so many lives, changed our city,” commented Father Carzon. “God’s mercy is deeper and greater and stronger.”
When asked if he would return to the marathon, Jim Harding responded, “I feel like I have to, you know? You can’t let them get the better of us. That’s what they want to do, right? I mean, they want to interrupt our freedom or take it away from us, and that’s not fair.”
When asked the same question, Sam and Sue Paris agreed.
“We’re not afraid; God’s there with us — and the Blessed Mother, every minute — so we’re not afraid,” said Sue Paris.
Quoting from Christ’s own words, with which Blessed John Paul II began his papacy in 1978, she added, “‘Be not afraid.’”
For a list of Boston-area prayer services, please visit http://www.thegoodcatholiclife.com/prayforboston.
Justin Bell writes from the Boston area.