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Fighting the darkness: Notre Dame and acts of faith

When the famous cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames April 15, you could see and hear the pain in the faces and voices of the onlookers. People spontaneously gathered along the banks of the Seine River to sing the Hail Mary, paying tribute to the importance of Our Lady and the gift of faith.

I, too, remembered the times I prayed in the Cathedral and celebrated Mass there, and especially the adoration chapel. The sheer beauty of Notre Dame and the feats of skill involved in its construction over 800 years ago always filled me with wonder.

Paris fire brigade chaplain Father Jean-Marc Fournier also gave witness to the gift of faith when he rescued the relics of the Crown of Thorns, the Blessed Sacrament and numerous other sacred objects. He told the French magazine Famille Chrétienne that when he rescued the Blessed Sacrament it was “an act of faith. … I asked Jesus — and I really believe he is present in these hosts — to fight the flames and preserve the building dedicated to his mother.” The tragedy of the Notre Dame fire has brought forth these acts of witness to the faith.

It was also inspiring to see the outpouring of pledges for rebuilding Notre Dame that followed the blaze. Taken together, this spiritual and monetary support shows that even if people are far from the faith or not even Christian, we are all made for beauty and therefore the ultimate source of all that is true, good and beautiful, God himself.

Next weekend, May 4-5, we will launch the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal in all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Denver. This appeal provides the people of northern Colorado with their chance to testify to the gift of faith and be a light to the world.

The charity of thousands of people in our archdiocese is already apparent. Through our homeless shelters, a safe place to sleep was provided for more than 200,000 nights in 2018. Our affordable housing system helped restore dignity by supplying housing for almost 1 million nights. We also fed the hungry, offering 612,158 meals to those in need. Our St. Raphael’s Counseling ministry was able to begin the healing process by counseling 667 clients, totaling thousands of hours of care.

These efforts demonstrate our love for Christ in the needy. But the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal also brings the gift of faith to countless people in our parishes and local communities. The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries trains catechists, youth ministers and parish staff in effective evangelization, provides retreats and helps engaged couples prepare for a happy, lifelong marriage. The Leadership Institute and other efforts of this office make valuable contributions to help create a culture of missionary discipleship in our archdiocese.

Perhaps the two ministries that have the most direct impact on parishes and are funded through the appeal are St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater Seminaries. I frequently hear from people about how impressed they are with our seminarians and their witness to the faith. This is a tribute to the dedicated efforts of the formators and professors at our two seminaries.

There are nearly 40 ministries that benefit from the appeal, so the impact of their witness is much more extensive than my brief description. Just as the unfolding of the fire at Notre Dame cathedral demonstrated the impact of faith and beauty on so many people, so too does the fruit of the annual appeal shine forth. The fruit we bear constantly reminds us that Jesus is truly risen and that he lives among us. We are able, through your generosity, to bring the love of Jesus Christ to hundreds of thousands of people in a world that desperately is searching for it. I invite you to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to join this effort.

Thank you for your generous and sacrificial support of the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. May God bless you this Easter season and help you be a light to the world!

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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