On Saturday, July 11th, 2020, there were fires in two different Catholic Churches on the east and west coasts of the United States.  I think we can learn something from each of these tragic fires.

Two firefighters putting out fires in Catholic churches.
Two fires in Catholic churches on Saturday.
Photo compliments of Pexels

Fires in Catholic Churches

According to NBC Miami, there was a man in Florida who crashed his vehicle through the doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala Saturday morning as people prepared for service.  No one was reported injured. The man threw an incendiary device and set the church ablaze, then ran for it.  The police caught him.  (Source)

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, also on Saturday, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in Los Angeles County also experienced a fire. However, that one seems not to have been set deliberately.  It is still under investigation.  The roof of the 215-year-old building collapsed.  (Source)

What Can We Learn from the Fires in These Catholic Churches?

Two fires in two different Catholic churches on Saturday, one seemingly accidental, and one caused by someone intentionally.  Two Catholic churches in shambles.  This is a tragedy for these places of worship.

Accidents happen, especially in a building as old as Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, but it’s still devastating that such a historical, and significant Catholic church caught fire.  Despite the tragedy, the church still held service on Sunday, the 12th.  I find that to be encouraging.  Despite the fires and damage, they are continuing to reach out to people and share the Good News with their community.

Holding services shows that they’re not discouraged. Something awful happened to their church, but they are standing up and getting to work on fixing things.  I hope that people in the community help their local Catholic church out either financially or by offering to help rebuild and clean.  Churches do so much for communities; maybe the city has an opportunity to give back. 

However, with the Catholic church in Ocala, we can learn a different lesson: forgiveness. The deliberate arson of churches, Catholic or otherwise, is wrong. I don’t know if something terrible happened in the man’s life, or if he was angry at the Catholic church or mad at God and decided to take out his anger by setting the church on fire.  I can’t speak for his heart; I can only speak of his actions.

It’s hard to forgive deliberate acts of malice and hatred.  But I think this is an excellent time to show good Christian love.  This man did wrong to a Catholic church.  And though I do believe he should go to jail for his actions, the people in the community around the Queen of Peace Catholic Church should show forgiveness and love to this man.  Forgiveness is more powerful than hatred.

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

Mark 11:25 (NRSVCE)

What are your thoughts on the fires in these Catholic churches? Share in the comments below.