“…And In His Saints!” A Work of Fiction from a Real Tragedy

niceThe French EMT helps load another stretcher into the ambulance, and shuts its doors as it takes off.  She wearily turns around and looks down the street of tragedy; lined with the injured, and the dead.  Just a little while ago it was full of people, celebrating the founding of a republic, celebrating Bastille Day.  Then tragedy struck in this city of Nice; one maniac in a truck, mowing the people down.  Now, there is fear, agony, and grief.  And her heart is screaming:  “Where are You in all of this?”

She closes her eyes for second.  When she opens them, she is looking at the curbside.  She notices for the first time, a little friar, dressed in a patched brown habit.  He is holding the hand of an injured child, singing a French ditty for her.

The sound of sobbing draws her attention to two women, kneeling over a covered body.  One of them is bent over with grief; the other has her arm around the grieving woman’s shoulders, holding her tight.  This woman looks like she is from the Middle East.  She is wearing a long blue veil; her face looks as if she has known much sorrow in her life, and now she is comforting another woman through hers.

The EMT looks further down the street of tragedy and saw a police officer standing guard.  He nervously stares out into night, holding his rifle tight.  The EMT blinks her eyes, because she could swear there was a girl standing next to him.  She is dressed like a French peasant, with short-cropped hair.  Her hand is gripping the officer’s shoulder, as with fierce eyes, she also stares into night with him.  Is that a sword in her other hand?

Movement next to her drew the EMT’s attention.  She stares at her medical bag, and sees that someone has placed a red rose in it.  She looks quickly behind her and thinks she sees a nun, a Carmelite nun, disappearing into the crowds.  She turns around again, but the people she saw, the friar, the woman in blue, the peasant girl, have also disappeared.  She looks down to her bag, the rose is real.  As she looks at it; she suddenly no longer feels so alone.  She grabs her medical bag, takes a deep breath, and walks back down the street of tragedy.

“Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.”

A Little Friar During the Night of Terror!

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

He walks among the wounded, and the dead.  The City of Lights has become the City of Fear.  The tears well up in the eyes of the little poor one, because he loves the French people.  His father made his fortune selling French cloth,and he had the name of his first-born son changed from Giovanni to Francisco to honor France.  In his youth, the little one would dress as a French troubadour, entertaining the young ladies of Assisi with French love songs.

He kneels down beside one of the wounded, who is crying in pain and fear.  He takes the person’s hand, bends over, and sings to him in French.  An EMT rushes towards the wounded person, he thinks he sees a dark robed friar kneeling over him.  He blinks and the friar is gone.  He kneels beside the injured, who is now quiet, and has a peaceful look on his face.  “Paix!”

Terror Strikes Again!

pray for parisMy wife and I do not turn on the TV much during the day.  When I do, I am usually watching TV reruns, until it is time for the evening news.  So yesterday, I was shocked when I saw the breaking news on WCVB TV, Channel 5, about the terrorist attacks throughout the city of Paris, France.

I know the scientific research is out there explaining it, but I still cannot understand why a human person can inflict so much pain, so much suffering, on another person.  How individuals can turn the great religions of humanity, faiths that teach peace, tolerance, charity, and mercy; and use them as the reason for slaughtering so many innocent men, women, children, and themselves!

In the face of so much evil, so much suffering, so much death; you cannot blame someone losing their faith in a merciful God.  As bad as things are in the world, as much as I may, at times, give in to despair; I cannot abandon my faith in God, nor my love for my Creator.  The Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the path to true peace.  God the Son, came into the world, so that by his death and Resurrection, we are freed from the fear of suffering and death.  That does not mean that we will not encounter suffering.  That does not mean we will not continue to experience death, of loved ones, and our own.  But God has shown us that there is a sunrise to defeat the darkness, that life, transformed and glorified, does exist.  That there is hope.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3: 1-3)

From a Franciscan Perspective – Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Care for the Poor

“1) Secular Franciscans should always act as a leaven in the environment in which they live through the witness of their fraternal love and clear Christian motivations.

2) In the spirit of minority, they should opt for relationships which give preference to the poor and to those on the fringe of society, whether these be individuals or categories of persons or an entire people;  they should collaborate in overcoming the exclusion of others and those forms of poverty that are the fruit of inefficiency and injustice.”  (Article 19, General Constitutions, Secular Franciscan Order)

Gravure d'Antoine Maurin dit "Maurin l'aîné" (1793-1860) à partir d'un dessin de Louis Janmot (1814-1892)

Blessed Frederic Ozanam

On August 4th, the Catholic Church remembers and celebrates the life of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.  Born in France in 1813, he originally wanted to become a writer, but his father insisted that he become a lawyer.  In 1831, he went to the University of Sorbonne, in Paris, to study law.  While there, he noticed that the Catholic Church was being attacked by the intellectuals in Paris.  A devoted Catholic, he and some friends started a debate club, where they could discuss issues of faith with agnostics and atheists.  At one of these debates, Ozanam was challenged to prove his faith with actions, and not just talk.  Taking up the challenge, Frederic and a friend began visiting the poor in the slums of Paris, and providing whatever assistance they could.  Their approach was novel, instead of just giving money to some religious or church organizations; they went out and personally met the poor in their homes.  Other laypersons were attracted to work Ozanam was doing, and together they formed the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.  Frederic did earn a law degree, but would eventually also earn a doctorate in literature.  He married in 1841, and he and his wife had a daughter.  He continued his work with the Society.  Continuously suffering from poor health, he died in 1853.  Some time before his death, he supposedly joined the Third Order of Saint Francis; today known as the Secular Franciscan Order.  The Saint Vincent de Paul Society has grown into a worldwide organization, with local conferences based in most parishes.  They continue their work of personally visiting and providing assistance to the poor in their local communities.

There have been some negative comments about Pope Francis’ focus on the poor.  Some feel that he is neglecting the middle class, who are also suffering from a decrease in wages, the threat of foreclosure on their homes, and a loss of a sense of security that their parents had.  As an out of work member of the middle class, with shrinking resources; I understand the feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and fear people are experiencing.  I am experiencing that to.  But Jesus, through his Gospel, has told us that we are called to take up our crosses daily, and follow him.  And to follow Jesus means to proclaim the Good News to the poor, to heal the sick, to care for the widow and orphans, feed the hungry and to set free the imprisoned.  Even with our own anxieties and sufferings, we are still called to encounter the poor among us, and offer help.  We can accomplish this through God’s grace, and being open to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, God is with us, in good times and the difficult times.  Let us be open to that Presence, and open to sharing that gift with others.