My heart weeps at the news of the attack in the Catholic Church in Nice, France. For the sacristan, a father of children, who died, who sounds like he was quite the servant. The woman who fled, and then died.
I thought of the elderly woman who was beheaded this morning there when I was praying after midday Mass in New York City.
The particular church I was in doesn’t stay open all day, I assume because of security concerns. I’ve seen some things in churches over the years. It’s hard not to be reminded there is a threat when walking into St. Patrick’s cathedral includes passing by counterterrorism police and having your bag checked out for weapons. Goodness, it wasn’t too long ago that a man was stopped there from some kind of crude bomb attack, after having been removed from the Newark cathedral across the Hudson just the night before for suspicious activity. This so-called Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist threats are real, because the depths of their hatred is real.
But I weep, too, because the response cannot be to close churches, as they did in Nice today.
After Mass, I found myself wondering if maybe that woman beheaded saw the face of Christ before she died, to make her so overwhelmed with beauty so as not to fear. Just last week I was at the shrine of the North American Martyrs here in New York State and was reminded of the love of Christ and His creation that brought those Jesuit priests to love so radically, putting themselves into the most violent, brutal situations. Fr. Isaac Jogues, S.J., even came back a second time, only to have a tomahawk end his loving efforts. We Catholics believe in the Real Presence — so Jesus Himself is in those tabernacles in those churches. We cannot abandon them, we cannot abandon Him. He does not abandon us. We need more time with Him for the strength for what is here and what is to come. Whatever it is.
P.S. If you want a little inspiration from our martyrs, this is the hopeful program from there last week. And the world has three more martyrs today. Pray for us, as we pray for them and those who love them. (And apologies for starting a few seconds too soon and not getting the proper introductions down — Beth Lynch is the archivist at the shrine in Auriesville, N.Y., where my laptop was and Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., was Zooming in from downstate, in large part because I knew he has a great love for the Jesuit martyrs (and he’s a Dominican so that is ecumenical!).