Shock, Mercy and Joyful Witness

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.

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9 Comments

  1. Because our family went to the Vigil Mass Saturday night, I only found out about this yesterday, from friends who are not even Catholic, but who were very upset by the vandalism. I was very hurt and angry, too. Then I thought, well, it wouldn’t be the first time Christ had been humiliated – as we’ve been reading about these last weeks of Lent – and it won’t be the last. We must pray – as he did – for the souls of the people who exacted the humiliation, and forgive, as he would.

    Thanks for the reflection.

  2. Thanks Randy for the very thoughtful reflections.

    It is hard to respond to unprovoked malice. You seemed to have worked through it beautifully.

    I think our call to compassion in this case is modeled in Jesus-“Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I don’t know what led to this terrible action, but we must forgive them and pray for a change of heart, a conversion, a turning to God. They hurt themselves much more by this action than they hurt us. Jesus was still resurrected again on Easter and no force, no act, no amount of hatred could stop that or turn us into that which attacked our church.

    I am reminded also of Pope John Paul II and his loving response to his attacker. He forgave him, he talked to him, he was a witness of Christ’s love. This is a good model for our actions. It takes strength to forgive and to show love in this case, but we have models like Jesus and John Paul II to help us. So let us pray for the strength to forgive like our risen Lord. Let us be worthy of being called his followers.

  3. Wow, what a beautiful lesson! It truly is word and deed, isn’t it? How many times do we delight in and repeat words such as: “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.” Amen! Yes, we should delight and repeated such words. It even feels good just to hear them rolling off your tongue… and even better to know in your heart that they ring true, but to be given the chance to “do” and on Easter Sunday while weighted down by a plethora of emotions, that’s amazing.

    Randy, it appears the blessings you received that day were many and the lesson your family received that day, unforgettable; for they saw their father lead by a wonderful example, they saw their father act like Christ. You became the voice and hands of Christ by reacting with prayer for those who wronged you and your community. You lived the message of Pope Benedict when he said, “We truly and fully become witnesses of the risen Christ when we allow the prodigy of Christ’s love to transpire us; when in our words, and even more in our deeds -in full coherence with the Gospel- it is possible to recognize the voice and hands of Jesus Himself.”

    May God continue to bless you the Easter season!

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful responses! What happened is difficult to capture in words, but hopefully there will be some good that comes out of this tragedy.

    God bless,

    Randy

  5. Randy:

    This is a sad commentary on today’s society, and particularly, the vulnerability of the Catholic Church. As the leader of Holy Spirit Career Ministry, I have been approached by groups, to lend our name to their roster. As part of my decision making, I seek Our Blessed Lord in prayer. I often learn that their apparent agenda, is a cover for another hidden agenda.

    We must cover ourselves in prayer, faith, and pray for those who would harm us.

    The prayer to our Guardian Angel, that you posted, should be a constant, and is one of the first prayers my Mother taught me, and that I in turn taught my children.

    May God bless you and all those who were hurt by this insult to Our Blessed Lord. You are all in my prayers.

    Caroline

  6. I’m really sorry about the graffiti that was put on our statue and it was shocking to witness but it seemed very immature. I mean, it looks like something some kids did.I don’t make much of it except to just wipe it off and maybe put up some outside security cameras in the near future.
    The coverage I see seems excessive. There are so much more important things to put our energy into such as political corruption as is the drug trade and human trafficking in our own country. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems that if we just cleaned it up without all the publicity, we would have made a bigger statement to those who did the deed.
    JC

  7. The desecration of any holy icon is devastating both spiritually and intellectually. Randy, I think your response is exactly what our Lord would hope from his children. Too often we look for justice to mask our need for revenge, when the only real christian response is to forgive. He went through much worse than a bad paint job for our sins.

    Thank you for sharing these insights on how to deal with religious intolerance. Forgive, pray for them and use the opportunity to teach our own children valuable lessons.

    Thank you,

    Chester Elton

  8. Hi JC! Good to see you here.

    I disagree that the coverage was too great. We were very blessed indeed that the restoration was successful, the damage could have been much worse and permanent… and involved more than merely wiping away paint.

    I believe the coverage served to remind people of the evil present in the world. The desecration of a holy object is a grave sin and thus more than a prank. If the culprits were kids, then it is well that they see the hurt they caused and also the fact that good people far beyond our own community came forward to help us.

    Deacon Mike

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