From the news site La Depeche [my translation]:
The break-in took place on the night of Sunday to Monday, in the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Marceille at Limoux. The coat and the head of the virgin of Marceille were stolen. Only the Jesus that the black madonna carried in her left arm remained intact. According to first estimates, no other object had been stolen from the basilica that night.
What is it that the vandal thinks he is destroying, as he rips out the robe of a long-cherished statue, as he tears off Mary’s head, robbing the parishioners of her smile?
Does he think those who can have faith in God see that faith as a shield against evil, so that by destroying their hollow statue the vandal sees himself as destroying a hollow faith..?
Does he see those placing their faith in an unseen God as blind people stumbling in the dark, and that his act of destruction is an act to illuminate their world, freeing them from a “blind faith” in a divine goodness breathing life into an otherwise empty existence?
Does he think that only wordly repercussions may follow from his actions, denying even the remotest possibility that he may pay a price much more perpetual than the suffering he seeks for fellow human beings in this life?
Who, really, is the one with blind faith?
As I sat through Mass this Sunday I took the time to cast my eyes about my church, and imagined myself following a Liturgy in a much older church now decorated by a headless statue. What does such a sight do to the faith of those parishioners? What do the faithful look to in order to strengthen their faith, when violent acts such as these, or worse, make it so difficult to persist in continuing this most passionate of commitments?
Probably they affirm their faith through the same technique that works so well for us on this side of the world: the summoning of a sense of sincere gratitude.
Seeing hope in the future by clearly seeing the past.
When memory is properly exercised, when history is sincerely studied, then one can’t help but feel grateful for all the incalculable gifts and blessings that have come our way.
Ignoring the past is key to hiding from the future, for to remember even our own personal youth would beg us to recall a time and age when we didn't know everything there was to know, where we could never know all the kindnesses and sacrifices made on our behalf, the many times that we were watched over while we slept, blindly innocent of the scope of the good around us.
Easy for me to hope the parishioners facing a faceless Mary can renew their commitment to their faith; yet days like yesterday, a day of Thanksgiving in Canada, make it so much easier for us to assert belief in a positive future, as we take the time and make the effort to appreciate our blessed past.
Having a faith in one’s future can’t be classified as “blind”, surely, when such commitment is based on as strenuous an effort to continually see things as clearly as possible. It’s by anchoring oneself in the past, that the best estimates can be made for one’s future. If we’ve grown before, surely we may do so again. If we’ve been blessed before, why not presume the likelihood of being blessed again? History may not repeat itself in exact detail, but honesty demands we acknowledge that it does recycle itself in outline, in pattern. Gratitude for one’s past, affirmed through clear memory, is the best preparation for the soul to feel hopeful for the future; where else can such confidence come from, but from familiarity..?
It was not through any blindness that I was able, yesterday evening, to see the scope of the bounty of gifts that have come my way through my short life. It was with clear vision that I could see the scale of the homemade Thanksgiving Dinner that my wife and I shared with those valued customers whose appreciated patronage allows me to pay my bills.
My faith is not a wall between me and reality, as the faithless vandal might see it; it is a window, letting me truly savor all the Goodness that fills this world.
Too bad the vandals of this age can’t see what we see, trapped as they are within the cage of an eternal present tense, empty of past, empty of future... it is tempting to even pity them, for there are none so blind as those who will not see.