By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
On Monday evening of Holy Week this year the world stopped in shock and watched the famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris burn. This 850-year-old Catholic cathedral is a symbol of culture, art, spirituality, Catholicism and hope.
For a brief moment people from around the world came together to express their solidarity with the people of Paris and all of France. For Catholics, it was a prayerful reminder that from ashes new life comes — and hope lives!
Since the fire, I have thought a lot about the power of compassion and love that comes from people — ordinary men and women who make a difference every day. They go about their business not seeking the limelight or wanting anything in return for their kindness and compassion.
The present world landscape, our own country’s landscape is wrought with division, hatred and volatility. Those who lead us have failed to challenge injustice, discrimination and violence. Our religious leaders too often are complicit by their silence to the complex social issues of our times.
However, hope does live among us! There are those anonymous people in our midst that remind us every day to build bridges and not walls, to be more inclusive without judgment, to respect the dignity of every human person, no matter what his or her social circumstance might be.
Every day I am fortunate to see firsthand these miracles that make our world brighter and better. A few weeks ago, I was waiting at the railroad station in Port Jefferson for the train to New York City. I was on the platform closest to the street. At a distance, I saw an elderly woman slip and fall. Before I could respond I watched a teenager jump off his bike and run over to help her. He helped her up and he walked her to a bench. He sat next to her for a few minutes to make sure she was alright. She was able to get up and continue her walk. He got back on his bike, continued his journey, turned around and waved goodbye.
So often we are in such a hurry we don’t see anyone around us, especially those that are crying out for our help. We miss those moments for random kindness and compassion for which our world is in desperate need.
Spring is in the air; the flowers are blooming. For Christians around the world, we are in the midst of another new season of hope! Maybe it’s an opportunity for personal renewal, for a renewed focus on what’s really important, a focus that is centered more on people and not systems, more on loving and not hating, more on doing and not just being.
The fire in Paris gave us a moment to see humanity at its best. Let’s keep it going!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.