Lessons we learned from Maundy Thursday
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2019 - 12:00am

It is now Maundy or Holy Thursday, but at the start of the Holy Week we were shocked to learn that the world famous and biggest Gothic Church named after the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was on fire. This news woke me up  Tuesday morning, and indeed it was shocking news not just for me, but my family as well. I have been to Paris twice; the first time I visited Paris I just passed the Notre-Dame, opting to climb up the iconic Eiffel Tower. However on my second trip in 2011 I was with my wife and daughter and we entered the Cathedral and was awed by its splendor and majesty, which has made the Notre Dame Cathedral a famous tourism destination in Paris.

I first learned about this great Gothic (with flying buttresses) Cathedral from the movie based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Honestly, I’ve never read Victor Hugo’s book, but in 1996, it was made into a movie produced by Walt Disney when he started to create many animated films. I saw this movie, which was Walt Disney’s seventh animated film. This fire last Monday also reminded me of the movie “Is Paris burning” when Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered his Generals to burn Paris as Germany was already losing the war. Thankfully, the Generals no longer obeyed the Fuhrer!

The Notre Dame Cathedral was named “Our Lady of Paris” by a very Catholic French nation… when Christianity ruled almost all of Europe. How times have changed since. I really don’t know why this fire occurred. But we woke up early Tuesday morning to learn about the fire, however it was still Holy Monday in Paris. So is there some kind of a divine message to the Parisians and the Catholic world why this fire occurred on the first day of Holy Week? As an old saying goes, “You can only rebuild your home if you burn it first.”

Perhaps as a reminder, my good friend, Dr. Rene Bullecer of Human Life International sent me photos of the fire and a comment that he wrote,  “Based on the 2018 survey, the Church attendance in France is among the lowest in the world, with surveys showing that only about 5% of the total population, i.e. less than 10% of those who are nominally Catholics, now attend weekly Holy Mass. Most churches in France are now turned into tourist destinations and heritage sites.” One positive story I got from my FB page is that my friends sent me images of Parisians singing the Ave Maria around the burning Cathedral. At least it made many people sing and pray.

Will this beginning of Holy Week conflagration wake up the French people to revive their Catholic faith that they have lost to liberalism? By the way I also heard that dozens of Christian churches in France have been torched by terrorists very recently. So the question we would like to ask is whether the French are the kind of people who could rebuild Notre Dame de Paris. Are they also the kind of people who could rebuild their Christianity out of the burned out embers and ashes of the Notre Dame Cathedral?

I dare say that if by divine intervention the French can recover their Christian faith, they can rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral. But it is only by God’s grace, or even the holy relic of the Crown of Thorns, and certain miracles that the French can return to the Catholic faith. What should make us worry is that to truly rebuild Notre Dame it would require the very kind of spirit-loving Catholics who built the Notre Dame Cathedral in the first place. We all hope and pray that the French people would rebuild not only the iconic cathedral, but also including their Catholic faith.

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Today is Holy Thursday, one of the greatest events of Christianity. This is the time when our Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper. Our Lord knew that when he returns to his Father in heaven he would not return to earth for a long time, so he left a small white bread which we Catholics believe contains his body, blood, soul and divinity so we could taste our Lord Jesus even if we do not get to see him.

Holy Thursday is for Filipinos all over the country the night of the Visita Iglesia when we go out to visit seven Churches and pray the Rosary with family and friends or do the Way of the Cross. As I pointed out earlier, foreign tourists would find this Catholic tradition remarkable, as they do not have this in their own country.

This is also the time for us to teach one of the greatest teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ when he washed the feet of his disciples, something that bewildered them. As the Lord said to his disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Have a great Holy Week!

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com.

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