Off the Path: 5

This blog, at least for the time being, has largely involved church buildings. In 2021, and maybe even a little before, that will change, as I deal more with the people I meet and the works they’re doing.

But in this space between reaching out to parishes for research and the actual visits, it’s been mostly devoted to me stopping in various churches for some quiet reflection before getting back on the road. On Monday, I had quite a bit to reflect on.

I was on the road home from visiting my college daughter when I was alerted via text from a friend about the situation in France. My friend, a non-Catholic, was lamenting the fire raging at Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris, as visiting the great church had been one of his “bucket list” items.

A short time later, I stepped into St. Joseph Church in Monroeville, Ohio. While there, and even now, I couldn’t help think about the church I wasn’t in.

Notre Dame is not just simply a building where Catholics attend Sunday Mass. Its reach, as my friend demonstrated, goes beyond Catholics. Beyond Christians, even. And it makes sense. There is value in the beauty contained within. Of the history the church has witnessed. Of the place it holds in the hearts of Parisians. These things do matter, and I think most of the world was elated to see so much of its interior, and its relics, survive the conflagration.

It is been a terrible month for places of worship around the world. Something evil led a disturbed young man to torch three black churches in Louisiana, a crime that not only deprives those Christian families of their church, but delivers a stark reminder of a time of horrific racism, violence and intimidation was the rule, and the law routinely looked the other way. And while Notre Dame’s fire captured the world’s attention, a similar fate was befalling the Muslim holy site, Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, at the exact same time.

But as we reach the holiest time of the year on our Christian calendar, we can still take comfort in the presence of God, whether looking upon a worship site ravaged by fire, or sitting alone inside a small darkened church in small-town Ohio. Because He is in all of these places.

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