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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Chain Link Cathedral

My favorite book by Sheen
St. Augustine wrote, ““You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”  Blessed Fulton J. Sheen wrote of this restlessness in his book Peace of Soul.  He showed us how there is a longing to reconcile ourselves with truth and come to rest in knowing answers to all the things that trouble us throughout our lives.  Until we have found the fullness of truth there is no enduring peace in our hearts.  

As the world grows less and less religious and membership in churches of all denominations around the globe continues to decline,  it becomes ever more obvious each day how true this longing is and how in spite of man’s rejection of God through professed faith, that longing persists.  It is a longing to achieve inner peace in an ever more violent world.  It is the desire to comfort ourselves with something beautiful and pure and innocent.  We walk away from God, but the farther away we get, the more restless we are to be at peace, to have order and dignity and calm in our lives.

A friend of mine contacted me recently to say her daughter had been struck by a car in Los Angeles while walking to work and she was in serious condition in the hospital with several broken bones and possible brain injury.  She asked if I would pray for her.  As a Catholic, this was not a difficult request.  I went immediately to church, lit a candle for her daughter, and offered up my prayers though the intercession of St. Raphael with confidence that my prayers are heard.  I was able to be at peace in the house of God, knowing He was there and that He will never abandon those who come to him in need. 

Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. 
There is sanctuary and silence inside a Catholic Church away from the chaos of the world that is more precious than any other place on earth.  Yet when tragedy strikes we see more and more that people around the world don’t seek God where He is for comfort and solace, they try to invent that calm by their own actions the best way they know how in most instances.  They go to what they know is beautiful---flowers, and they reach for fire and light---candles, and they appeal to the heavens with their desires for those they mourn with balloons and posters, and handwritten notes.

If they had a church to go to, I suspect more of the mourners would go there, but because so few have any faith in the real presence of God in tabernacles around the world, and find nothing but emptiness in those churches were he is not present they seem to rarely consider church as the place to carry their grief. 
Manchester, England, after the concert bombing
And hence we see a growing phenomenon I call Chain Link Cathedrals springing up next to fences or walls in every place where a public tragedy has occurred.  These instant memorials come out of nowhere.  They last a day or two and then they disappear again and people go about their routine lives.  They have become the replacement, on the spot, religious experience that people need and unknowingly desire and in many instances fervently deny.  It isn’t until their hearts are breaking and their sense of loss and injustice calls out to them that they stop what they are doing and express charity through a ritual of compassion and kindness of the most basic kind against a chain link fence.  That fence, as mundane as it is, becomes the receptacle for their gifts and their invocations.  It acts as the focal point for their intentions and it brings together others without a church in which to pray a temporary congregation with which to suffer.  
Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia after shooting of 
local TV personality shocks the community

I speak of these memorials with sadness and it isn’t my intention to mock them.  I personally mourn the emptiness of the lives that create them, void as they may be of any faith in the All Mighty God, Our Father, and with no connection to a permanent place to anchor their daily lives and meet their spiritual needs in times of distress. 

The next time you see one of these make believe cathedrals, pray for the people who put them there, because however sad the tragedy they mourn may be, sadder still is the fact so many other lives are restless for a peace only the Eucharist can give them.  Pray that the grace they have been given will inspire a recognition of the real truth which alone will bring them peace.
Mourners after a terror attack


Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Very insightful article, Chriss. But some of the people who honor the dead at these locations may be treating them like we do other important places to memorialize: cemeteries, historical battlefields where so many have died, the place we met our spouses, etc. I think of important events like birthdays and anniversaries where people visit places from their past as a source of remembrance. Let's pray that the folks who memorialize these sites go first into the presence of Our Lord to lift their loved ones up to the Lord of Life.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Chriss Rainey said...

I agreeMary Anne. I think of all the crosses I've seen on the side of the road in out of the way places. You just know it was where some loved one faced death in a car crash. I look at that as a chance to remember to pray for the dead. Often these little memorials are maintained for years by loved ones. They are to me, very different than what I wrote about.