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The Fires This Time

NEW OXFORD NOTEBOOK

By Pieter Vree | October 2020
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR.

April might be the “cruelest month” in T.S. Eliot’s estimation, but July is making a run for the money — July 2020, that is, in this cruelest of years.

This summer saw a sharp rise in anti-Catholic vandalism in the United States. There were desecrations of monuments: beheadings of statues of Mary in Tennessee and of Jesus in Indiana, and the toppling of a memorial to victims of abortion in New York, among other outrages. More disturbing were the attacks on Catholic churches. Several were damaged or defaced in the course of the Black Lives Matter riots. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, for example, were tagged with graffiti, while St. Jude Chapel in Dallas and the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville were pelted by rocks.

But July was a particularly cruel month.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, a historical landmark in southern California and a fully functioning parish, was destroyed on July 11 in what has been described as a possible arson attack. San Gabriel is one of 21 missions founded by Spanish Catholic missionaries in the Golden State and was reportedly the first Catholic church in the Los Angeles area. It was founded in 1771 by St. Junípero Serra (whose statues have also been ravaged by “anti-racist” mobs). The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“This fire changes nothing,” Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez told parishioners. “Mission San Gabriel will always be the spiritual heart of the Church in Los Angeles…. You are one of the few Catholic communities in this continent that can claim to be founded by a saint…. I remembered his beautiful little prayer: ‘Let us bear every hardship for the love of You and the salvation of souls. In our trials, may we know that we are loved as Your own children.’”

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