I drove my family to the 7:30 am Easter Mass at St. Peter Chanel parish Sunday morning with excitement as we were preparing to celebrate our Risen Lord. Imagine our shock when we pulled into the parking lot and saw that someone had spray painted graffiti on our brand new white marble statue of Christ outside the walls of the parish. This desecration was bad enough until we also noticed that a pentagram, the symbol of the devil, had been painted on Christ’s chest as well as genitalia and other markings. Who could have done such a horrible thing? Adding to the shock was perhaps our naïve belief that this kind of thing happened in other areas of the country, not here in comfortable suburbia.
As we walked into the parish trying to comprehend what we had seen, I wrestled with conflicting emotions. Visualizing the symbol of the prince of darkness boldly tattooed on the Prince of Peace made me angry, frustrated and deeply saddened all at the same time. My sons were filled with questions that would have to wait until Mass was over. I quickly prayed for peace and clarity as I focused on the Mass and the celebration we were about to enjoy, but I was really struggling until our priest talked about Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and the price He paid for all of us. He talked of Christ’s enduring love and forgiveness. It dawned on me at that very moment that our Lord would also forgive those responsible for the desecration of His statue. Here I was, outraged at this heinous act against our Redeemer, being reminded that Jesus was willing and able to forgive everyone.
My anger started to recede and I prayed for the people responsible. I thought this was the central point of the lesson I was meant to learn in the Mass, but there was more. Fr. Yander also spoke about our call to give witness to the Risen Christ and share this news with everyone. The miracle of the Resurrection is not meant to live only in our parishes, but we should proclaim it to the world as our Christian ancestors did in the early days of the Church.
Writing this brief reflection has been cathartic for me and my anger has largely evaporated, replaced by a desire to pray in earnest for those who committed the crime. They must pay the price for their actions in a court of law, but I pray that Christ will show them mercy and the power of His redeeming love. Whoever is responsible has strayed far away from God and fallen under the influence of evil.
As I reflect on Fr. Yander’s point about giving witness to the Risen Christ, I wonder if these people have positive influences in their lives. Do they have examples among their family and friends who joyfully love Christ and share the Good News with them? I wonder if you and I might know people in our extended circle today who are struggling, silently crying out for help and looking for a good example to follow. The best way for us to counter darkness is to be the light of Christ to others. Our good example, our joy, our humility and our witness to others will provide the alternative these lost souls may be seeking. I will be praying today for peace and healing for my fellow parishioners, but also for those who performed this desecration. I will also be praying that you and I will have the courage to influence others to not go down the path of evil.
A Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits
Editor’s Note: Fortunately the statue was completely restored on Monday, as you can see from the accompanying picture.