Father Joseph Costantino is the Pastor of St. Francis Xavier and has been with the church since September of 2006. Fr. Joe Costantino entered the Society of Jesus in 1977 and was ordained in 1987. He was born in Brooklyn and was in Brooklyn on 9/11.
Q: How would you want 9/11 to remembered, not just on the 10-year anniversary, but on the 20-year or 50-year anniversary?
A: We have to remember that 20 or 50 years from now that there will be some people who did not experience 9/11, but it is something to remember all those who lost their lives innocently and have expressions of love and concern for them and their families as a result of this tragic event. So you would want people to always remember as we remember on Memorial Day those soldiers who gave up their lives. So many people were shocked by this suddenness and they had bright futures ahead of them and they were cut short by this tragic event. So you’d want people to always remember that we must pray for peace, and we must be a people who try to forgive and to engender future peace among all people.
Q: As horrific as the events of 9/11 were, in what ways has the post-9/11 world been a “learning experience” for Americans? What is the opportunity? Has the “teachable moment” passed?
A: I think it’s been a challenging moment for people, because to open one’s self to the grace of forgiveness, because people are so devastated after such a tragedy but to be able to forgive the perpetrators of this truly misguided…but the hopefulness of forgiveness…it is always a challenge.
Q: How does one best deal with the realities of a collapsing economy, out of control politicians and fear-based news from around world?
A: I think one of the ways in which to learn to deal with life is to remember time and again that are just visitors to this planet and our life is a matter of trying to enjoy as much of the visit as we can…there is a way in which we try to cling and to hold on to life because it is so good, but one of the messages for people of faith is to hold all things lightly so that there is a way in which we know that we are all destined and for Christians, to go back to God, and to live in one of those many dwelling places that Jesus Christ prepared for us. So that is the message of hope for Christians, but for all peoples no matter what their faith, is that we are visitors to the planet. We have to put our life in perspective and know that if we cling too tightly and don’t hold things lightly we will not be as fulfilled or happy in this life.
Q: What message of hope would you offer Americans during the observance of the 10th anniversary?
A: Hope, of all of the virtues, is probably the one that most God admires. There are reasons to love…there are reasons to have faith. We look at nature and all of creation and we say where did this all come from but hope is something of the future. We haven’t quite seen it yet. And so as we think about and pray about and reflect on hope, it’s some grace that has to be given as a transcendent element of our lives so it’s not something we can give ourselves. We can’t just give ourselves hope. But we can open ourselves to hope. To hope that there’s a bright tomorrow. To hope that things will work out. That God will ultimately be pervasive because God has created us in love and we are to return to that love and that’s a hope. But it’s not easy to just hope. Sometimes people do lose all sense of hope because the future doesn’t seem bright. As long as we have a breath, we have a possibility of hope for a better tomorrow.
Q: What do you see as having changed most in America since the attacks of 9/11?
A: I think that it is amazing that on the 10th anniversary it falls on a Sunday, a day of worship, and for Jewish people, a Saturday, a day of worship…for many people it has always been the weekend that is a time of rest; a time of reflection. So it gives us an opportunity this year on the 10th anniversary to reflect upon how we have to better love and how we have to better forgive. And I think that will be a message that will be given in houses of worship throughout the country on this 10th anniversary because there was a way in which, though it was a tragic event, it brought people together in a way that was very heart-warming. Communities came together to pray. There were outpourings of support and generosity so, though there was a tragedy, there was also a way in which you could see goodness in the human heart. Even though many lives were lost, no life is ever without a way in which there’s redemption…a gift to others as a result of their life. The people who so tragically lost their lives in 9/11 are still giving us gifts of faith, hope and love. We often try to cling and hold on to life, so one of the messages for people of faith is to hold all things lightly. You want people to always remember that we must always pray for peace and that we must be a people that try to forgive. We have to put our life in perspective and know that if we cling too tightly, we will not be too happy in this life.
The Church of Saint Francis Xavier celebrates the diversity of its parishioners who come from all walks of life and from all areas throughout Metropolitan New York. The church offers a myriad ministries and services they provide to all those who need them. More at The Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Father Joseph Constantino will be speaking at A Celebration of Our Oneness: In Commemoration of September 11 at Integral Yoga Institute NYC on Saturday 9/10/2011 at 6pm.