SAUCIER — History and mystery


Frank Silecchia was a New York native and an excavation laborer — a pick-and-shovel guy.

When his city begged for search-and-rescue volunteers after the 9/11 attack, he stepped up.

Two days later, after 12 hours of scouring the smoldering wreckage, he wanted to check one more place for survivors.

Crawling through the pile of debris in the lobby atrium of Building Six, he found, dangling from the mangled structure, a remnant of welded beams in the shape of a 20-foot cross.

Silecchia and fellow workers wanted to save it. It was eventually placed in the National September 11 Museum and Memorial.

A lawsuit was filed, claiming that the display of the Ground Zero Cross was an endorsement of Christianity, violating the separation of church and state.

An appellate court ruled that there is a difference between history and religion. Essentially, the Ground Zero Cross is a historical image and can be displayed in a public institution.

For many, that ruling was welcome, but looking back on it this Holy Week, there is something vaguely disturbing.

I wonder if, for many of us, the cross has in fact become a historical artifact.

Sure, it’s popular in glittering jewelry and bold tattoos. Good Friday always puts it center stage, but do we wrestle with what it means today?

There is a litany of theologies of the cross, from bloody atonement to the simple cruel consequence of opposing the status quo.

But ultimately, the significance of the cross comes not in subscription to a particular belief, but a personal encounter.

Far more than any ransom or retribution, Jesus nailed to the killing tree is a sign of love and hope.

We all know that love hurts. When someone close to us is in pain, in loss, in grief or in fear, we cannot help but suffer with them.

In love with us, our God shares our agony and afflictions, guiding us through our suffering.

The story of the cross cannot be told without an empty tomb. That is the crowning hope, that our suffering will not last, that we will endure, that there is life beyond the torment.

At the foot of his cross, amid choking smoke and unimaginable death, Frank Silecchia said that he could almost hear God saying, “The terrible thing done at this site was meant for evil, but I will turn it to good. Have faith. I am here.”

What do you hear at the foot of yours?