Is this the end of Christianity? Of course not. Is it the end of the kind of Christianity we have gotten used to? In my opinion, the answer is “Yes.” And I do not think that’s all bad. it’s just something that’s going to be difficult to get used to.
Years ago I was eating a salad in the early evening of June 27, 1990 in Goleta, Saint Raphael parish. I was the only priest in the rectory, as the pastor had gone to Camarillo for a retreat. My window was facing north toward the mountains, and I saw a small puff of smoke at the top of the mountain. 15 minutes later that puff of smoke was a fire that was raging down the mountain and had burned down to the 101 freeway and was jumping across to consume parts of Santa Barbara and Goleta.
People, including children without parents were in our parish parking lot. This was the time before cell phones. People were panicked. One man had the good sense to take his motor home to a grocery store and load up on coffee, bread, sandwich meat, and cheese slices. He had small bags of protein snack bars. He told me to call the police, the highway patrol, the sheriffs, and any fire department within the area and tell them we had sandwiches, coffee, and water for any first responders. He had a lot of food,
I spent the night trying to get people safely into our parish hall and church where they could sleep or sit and talk and worry together. First responders started coming for food and coffee about an hour later. It seemed like a scene from hell; hot embers landed in the parking lot and me afraid that the whole property would catch on fire. I talked to one firefighter about my concerns. He grinned and said: “No, Padre, this place will be safe. This is where we get our sandwiches and coffee. We won’t let this place burn.” I slept on the floor next to the back door of the rectory that night with a few possessions in my car, ready to drive to the beach if I had to.
One family I knew lost their home. Several did. But I just did a funeral for one of the members of the McDonald Family. They lost their entire home. They had time only to pick up their dog from the floor and drive down the hill in a panic. It made their family so much stronger, more compassionate for others, kind to other people and ardent that they would keep their family together and include others in their family.
This is how I hope that our Church will come through this; not just our parish, but the entire Church. We will probably have to rebuild, but it starts with getting away from the danger, supporting those who can really help us, having compassion and dedication to do the work that needs to be done, feeding others and trusting that the real “revelation” isn’t that God has come to end us and all of creation, but that God has come to purify His people. Evil and destruction can do its best to undo us as family, Church and people. God’s grace calls us to have compassion, to escape the evil, to help others and rebuild our lives without the unnecessary stuff (not just material things, but things that weigh us down like sin) and work together to build what is really important; it’s not what the world thinks is important (material accumulation), but what God says is important.
This is the our faith. This is the faith of our Church. We are proud to profess it in Jesus Christ Our Lord.
The above was sent on August 31 to Cal Catholic by Father John Higgins, pastor of St. Raymond parish in Downey.