Last year’s ‘Thomas’ fire was the worst in the history of California. That is until the Carr fire overtook it in death, destruction, and devastation.
We live in the west, surrounded by high desert, stunning mountains, and the ever- increasing threat of wildfires. Unsurprisingly, the subject has become a hotly contested argument. On the one hand, those purporting that climate change is the obvious culprit. And the other contending that other factors are responsible. Still, others point out that many of the fires are due to arson.
As we have grown to expect in our divisive culture, few representing the polarizing viewpoints care to listen to one another. Each side has some truth in their view. The ratio of truth to untruth is debatable, but often not to adherents of the opposing camps.
The Thomas fire was so-named because it so threatened the breathtaking campus of St. Thomas Aquinas University in Santa Paula, California, that students and faculty were told to evacuate. They were unable to return for two months because of the mudslides that followed the fires when the rains arrived.
Long-term admirers of St. Thomas and its commitment to orthodoxy, my husband and I were among the first to attend seven am daily Mass (one of four daily Masses at the college, the last at ten pm) at the majestic chapel in March of last year upon the reopening of the college. Upon parking the car and walking up to the campus, the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air. The surrounding trees and vegetation were blackened and ruined reminders of that horrific fire that completely surrounded the campus.
As we walked up the stairs onto the grounds of the university, we were overcome by awe and wonder. The miracle of the wholly untouched campus was providential, we knew. Of late, I have thought frequently about our visit to the site of the ‘Thomas Fire,’ our immersion into the early morning mass with over fifty students. And I ponder the videos of the raging flames that came so terrifyingly close. But did not encroach the buildings of the University.
Is it possible this was merely good fortune?
A lucky break for the college?
If you click on the website of St. Thomas Aquinas University, two words jump out from the web page: TRUTH MATTERS.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us about Jesus being approached by the Pharisees and Sadducees asking him to show them a sign from heaven. But he replied,
"When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' "And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?
"An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away.
The signs facing twenty-first century Catholics are portentous. Evil stalks our culture and is occupying the front pew of our Church. Pick up a newspaper or turn on the news and our eyes and ears will be filled with the latest scandal of a Bishop, Arch Bishop or Cardinal. The divisiveness among the Bishops and between the Ecclesia and the Pope seems at an all-time high.
We Catholics have a choice.
- Do we cover our face when we go to Mass?
- Or shamefully change the subject when the subject is brought up?
- Or drop our weekly contributions?
- Or shop for a new Church?
- Silently joining in the moral outrage?
Or do we resolve to spend more time on habits we know keep us from being perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect? On the three pillars of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving?
Resolve to fill our eyes and ears with His Word, His Eucharist, boldly proclaiming our love and fidelity for this Church which the Gates of Hell will not destroy.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”