Wednesday 21 August 2019

How does anyone make sense of these barbaric actions?

Flowers outside the Le Carillon restaurant which was attacked. Photo: Mark Condren
Flowers outside the Le Carillon restaurant which was attacked. Photo: Mark Condren

Fr Aidan Troy of St Joseph’s Church in Paris

Nothing prepares people for what happened on Friday night in Paris. The shock is still palpable after the weekend and, while people are going to work and children are going to school, it is not the same Paris that so many love and enjoy. Something has changed.

On Friday night, three French families had met for a meal in one of their homes and had invited me to join them. It was lovely to be with them and their children. All was going well until I noticed all the phones around the table began to be busy. When my phone began to get messages, I thought it was to do with the European soccer qualifying game in Bosnia. Eventually, one at the table said: "There is a tragedy unfolding in our city of Paris."

Each subsequent message unveiled a new horror. I could see the pain on the faces of these young French parents as they tried to take in what was happening. I only wanted to get back to the church where I live and minister.

The weekend just past was on a knife-edge. The advice was to stay indoors for safety reasons. The enquiries never stopped as to whether there would be weekend Masses. The decision I took was that we would open up as usual and welcome any people who came. To my delight, the five Masses were full and some overfull. People stood around talking and telling their stories about the events of Friday night.

A few told stories of people they knew who had been caught up in the appalling killing and wounding. At the end of the weekend, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for keeping us safe.

On Monday morning, I went to a school on the outskirts of the city where I serve as chaplain. Over the weekend the teachers were trying to work out how best to address the questions that children and families will be asking and how best to assist in what is new territory.

I went to address almost 400 children with a real fear and sense of inadequacy in my heart. How does anyone make sense to children of such barbaric acts at a soccer match, while people enjoyed a meal or listened to their favourite band?

It was such a privilege to stand with these children - Christian, Muslim, Hindu and with no religious belonging. The silence for the minute of remembering those who died, the injured and their families and loved ones, was total. There was not a whisper or a distraction. It seemed to me as if this was a moment of healing and of hope that Paris and all troubled places can recover.

Whether life will be able to go back to what it was before is not yet clear.

There is a highly visible military and armed police presence on the streets and in the railway stations. Some people are calling for more soldiers and police. Along with a military response, people of good will need to reach out and find ways to offer a way forward that will enable us to defeat evil in any way it affects our world. What to do is the challenge. My hope and prayer is that we can find a way to a solution that will conquer the fear and sadness in Paris following the events of Friday, November 13, 2015.

Aidan Troy is CP of St Joseph's Church, Avenue Hoche, Paris of St Joseph's Church in Paris

Irish Independent

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