I am typing to you with 2 fingers on my tiny cell phone. I am about 3 blocks from
the attacks in Paris.
Wherever we would travel during our pilgrimage through France, from Normandy through Lisieux and Mont Saint Michel and into Paris, our group of pilgrims stopped at precisely noon to recite the prayer of the Angelus bells. Today as we recited the prayer at the tomb of Saint Vincent de Paul we joined all of France as every French citizen stopped to remember the dead here. It was a most sobering event. To think that an entire country, and indeed the entire European continent stopped to pray for the dead at noon.
Our hotel is about 3 blocks away from the attacks. Paris has been very quiet with stores and schools closed. Not many people on the streets. Empty metros because people are probably too afraid to be confined. The Eiffel Tower is now closed and darkened as a sign of mourning. The French borders had been closed and a state of emergency declared. The country is at war. I have never experienced anything like it. There are great signs of solidarity and hope as we see images from around the world. The Sydney Opera House in the colors of the French flag, the Christ figure in Rio de Janeiro also in the colors of France, as well as Buckingham Palace and The NY Freedom Tower. All signs of unity and support. The statue of the Blessed Mother in Notre Dame Cathedral was bathed in blue, white and red this morning.
A few days ago we were in Normandy where I said Mass in a cemetery of 10,000 souls. I was reminded of all those who died in the battle against evil so many years ago. I did not imagine that within a few days evil would once again strike so vehemently and so close. Satan is always looking to strike.
And as I stood looking at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral I looked at the center facade carved in 1350 AD. In the center of the front of the Cathedral is a carved scale. On the scale is a soul who is being weighed for final judgment. On one side is an angel. On the other side is Satan who surreptitiously pushes down the scale. Satan will do anything to win over a soul to evil. All of Paris had just witnessed this.
With that one of the 17 bells in the tower began to ring. Just one bell. The 13 ton bell that never rings. And, as all bells are given a name when they are consecrated, it was that one bell that rang across Paris as a sign of hope. The name of that bell is “Emmanuel.” It means “God is with us.” This was the message of that one bell to Paris and the world: “God is with us.”
Fr. Gerard Gordon