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How does one even describe the events of Bastille Day 2016? I can talk about my feelings, the attack, the aftermath but it all just seems so unreal.  How could I have been put in this situation? Me, who avoided large crowds all my life and stayed inside during the Euro Games for fear of riots and terrorism.  As of right now it is impossible to wrap my head around the situation.

Alyssa and I left our host parents’ house at about 8 pm on Bastille Day.  We had just taken an hour putting on makeup and cute dresses and buying ourselves little bottles of wine to drink on the beach with our friends.  We met Gideon and Nick in front of the statue at Place Massena and went to sit on the Plage Beau Rivage.  Eventually, Shayna, Andrea and Lydia showed up and we continued to wait for the fireworks to start.  Just before they started, Alyssa decided to go get ice cream and I needed to go to the bathroom so we walked along the Promenade des Anglais to the local McDonalds where there was a long line to go to the bathroom.  When we were finally done, we walked back along the Promenade des Anglais to get our ice cream just in front of the Plage Beau Rivage.  By the time we returned to our friends, the beach was packed like sardines and the fireworks had just started.

Sitting on the beach before the Fireworks

Sitting

After the fireworks, my friends and I decided to wait for the crowd to disperse before we went back up to the Promenade des Anglais to walk home or go out for drinks.  After most of the beach had cleared, we saw a bunch of people sprint out of the tent of the local restaurant.  We just thought there was another exciting show about to start a little farther down.  Little did we know, a truck had just accelerated through a crowd of people on the Promenade des Anglais and was heading in our direction.

After a few seconds, a police officer stuck his head over the edge of the Promenade with a look of panic on his face that will forever be engrained in my brain and yelled “Partir! Partir!” (Leave! Leave!)  We caught eye contact and you could tell something was terribly wrong and our lives were in danger.  Alyssa, Andrea and myself grabbed hands and sprinted up the stairs.  We ran to Old Nice where there are a lot of small streets and passed so many diners with customers still enjoying a relaxing dinner—oblivious to the events occurring.

Along the way there was a slow in the crowd so I turned to a twenty-something guy walking next to me and asked “Quelle est la problem?” (What is the problem?).  He answered in French and I was in a state of panic so I said “Parlez-vous anglaise?” (Do you speak English?).  Fortunately he did and proceeded to explain that there was a terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais, possibly gun shots and possible explosions.  I thanked him, grabbed my friends’ hands and ran.  The only thing going through my mind was that Andrea didn’t know where I lived and what could happen if we got separated or a gunman opened fire on the road we where on.   I just kept yelling directions to my friends telling them, “Don’t stop! Run! Turn right! If we need to duck and cover go to the right! Etc.”

After a few seconds, I texted Mike and told him “I love you. I think there’s an attack here.”  He tried calling but I just needed to focus on running to safety.   Gideon had left just moments prior along the beach and ran back to find us when he saw the rush of people.  He texted me “WTF is happening?” and I did what I could to explain.

Ice cream before Fireworks

Ice Cream

While running through the streets, we argued whether or not to go into a restaurant to hide or keep running all the way home.  Our destination was about 20 minutes from the beach.  At one point, Andrea stopped to throw up and I said “No! Hold it in. We have to keep running.”  At another stop, Alyssa was ready to stop and walk because she was so out of breath but we just grabbed her and kept running.  We were literally running for our lives.

After a while we ended up on a street that was fairly empty.  I found a young couple standing on the corner and asked them “Quelle est la problem?”  Once again I didn’t understand so I asked, “Parlez-vous anglaise?” I was surprised at how supportive they were with their response.  The girl hung up her phone and said, “Yes, yes English. There was a terrorist attack.  Stay in hiding and don’t talk to anyone.”  At that point, Alyssa realized that we were right next to the café attached to our apartment so we sprinted through Place Garibaldi and ran up the stairs.

Once we were home safe, we called our parents and families to tell them we were safe.  We stayed up until about 2:35 reading and watching the news and talking to our families.  We also reached out to all of our classmates to make sure they were safe.  Andrea, Alyssa and I snuggled into a double bed just wanting to stay together.  That night I stayed in bed for about 4 hours and slept for maybe a total of 1.  I couldn’t stop shaking and every car that drove by made my heart stop.

Distance from the Attack to my spot on the beach

Distance

The next morning, our host mom told us that we should go to school to take our minds off of everything.  I tried getting ahold of my professor to find out what was happening because we were the oldest in the group and our classmates were looking to us for direction.  I had to tell my professor that she needed to send us an email advising us to go to class.

On the way to class, Andrea, Alyssa and I met up with Shayna and we walked the 20 minutes through the back roads to get to school.  I carried my rosary in my fist the whole way.  When I got to my class (an hour late), my friend Yuta gave me a supportive smile and asked me if I was ok.  The school went around and made sure every student was accounted for.  At the end of class, my professor talked a little about the attack, trying to reassure us that we were safe.  I broke down remembering running for my life.

After class, my GVSU group met up and embraced each other—crying and recounting the events of the night.  Mason, Jen and Jessica had literally just left the Promenade to head home before the rush.  Lydia’s host mom felt that something was off and brought her home right away.  Lydia, Nick and Shayna ran in the opposite stairwell from us and then to Old Nice to get Shayna safely home because Lydia and Nick live close to each other.  Sam had been standing right on the Promenade where the attack was just moments prior but had decided to go buy a bottle of wine while she waited for her friends.  She received a frantic call from Rue screaming that they lost Hannah and something was happening.  Rue, Hannah and Torrey had been sitting at Place Massena and ended up separated when they saw people running.  Hannah ran into a bathroom with 2 random females and ended up going to the hotel of one of them until Torrey’s host dad could find her to pick her up. Rue and Torrey ran into a parking garage, but a police officer stopped them and said it wasn’t safe so they ran to a road where a woman welcomed them into her apartment.  Alyssa, Danielle and Bailey were also separated and ran into cafés opposite each other but eventually were able to get together.  They were unable to leave because it was unsafe outside.  There were so many instances where one of us should have been in the path of that truck, but all of us had angels guiding us away from the attack.

Held this all night

Rosary

I cannot even begin to explain the emotions that have gone through me.  After nearly 20 hours, I have finally stopped shaking, but I am refusing to allow my brain to comprehend the situation.  I am numb and angry and scared and calm and supportive.  I don’t know if I should go home early or stay on my trip for another 2 weeks.  I feel more for the children and families affected by the attacks and for my classmates who can’t stop crying due to the trauma.

I can say that I have such a sense of pride for the human race.  Everyone was working together and cooperating with each other.  The police office who risked his life to evacuate the beach.  The 3 French people that had enough patience to explain what was happening in English.  My host brother, a med student, and his friends who rushed to the hospital to see how they could help.  The women who took in my classmates and let them stay with them until everything calmed down.  Torrey’s host dad who risked his life driving around Nice trying to pick up stranded GVSU students.  My friends and I whose thoughts did not turn immediately to ISIS but to a seizure or a drunk driver.  While there is still so much hatred and violence in the world, I truly have faith that we can overcome and overpower it to make this world a better, more loving and universal place.  Thanks be to God for sending out our guardian angels last night and allowing us to survive the attack.  We are safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Are We A Christian Nation?


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Today’s Gospel challenges us to consider how we view–and use–our blessings:

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves
.”

And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

The question arises: are we treating God’s house as a house of prayer, or are we acting as a den of thieves?

Lately I’ve been confused by what I’ve read on Facebook.  A lot of my fellow Christians have posted fearful messages about closing our borders, rejecting refugees, and denying entry to people from abroad.  Many fear terrorists finding their way into our country.  And many of these same people fear that we, as a nation, are losing our Christian identity.

We are blessed as a nation.  Our natural resources, cultures and subcultures, blending of human diversity, all make us who we are.  And to the extent we are a Christian Nation, our land has been given to us so that we may give it back to God in worship; our land is a temple, a place of worship.

Have we, then, turned our land into a den of thieves?

As I dig deeper into the Gospel, I find even more evidence of its contemporary relevance.  When Christ entered the Temple and encountered the merchants, He was in an area specifically set aside for Gentiles.

In the court of the Gentiles there would be those who sold animals for sacrifice, and those who changed Greek or Roman money to Jewish money, for that was needed in order to offer it. Yet Jesus drove them out, citing the prophet Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 That court was the farthest out from the sanctuary, yet all the noise and traffic there was unsuitable.  Aquinas Study Bible.

This court then was Solomon’s porch—probably the eastern part of Solomon’s porch, in the court of the Gentiles—in which were sold doves, sheep, and lambs for sacrificing in the Temple, whom Christ drove out of it. For the court of the Gentiles was, as it were, the temple of the Gentiles, in which, therefore, it was not seemly to buy and sell.  Aquinas Study Bible.

According to one source, “the Court of the Gentiles was the vast open space on the Temple mount in Jerusalem where all those who did not share Israel’s faith could discuss religious matters.” It was a place for non-Jews to understand the faith of Abraham and be introduced to the Covenant. The Gentiles were the outsiders of the Jewish people, but there was a place in the Jewish Temple set aside for their inquiry.

Shouldn’t we offer the same sort of welcome to those suffering persecution abroad?

Two questions are relevant:

  1. Are we really a Christian Nation?
  2. Are we really the Home of the Brave?

If we really are a Christian Nation, shouldn’t we show Christian mercy to those who suffer?  If we really are the Home of the Brave, shouldn’t we demonstrate the courage of compassion for those who don’t have our blessings?

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This is a great video of how this man shows his deep love for God and His Word.

He shows great reverence and intimacy for God’s Word as he reproduces it in writing.  It reminds me of how Catholics respond to the Word Made Flesh in the Eucharist: we stand, bow, genuflect.  And the Rabbi’s explanation at 11:45 of how Jews stand up on the entrance of the Torah and kiss it reminds me how we stand in Mass when the Priest processes the Word in and when the Gospel is read; and how the Priest kisses the Word after reading the Gospel. (Here is a wonderful article about the significance of the kiss at Mass).

Dr. Epstein also gives a great example of how to begin every task.  Listen to the video beginning at 5:24, where he explains how every time he begins anew his colossal effort, he starts with prayer and alms-giving.

He also gives a living testimony of the interrelationship of faith and works.  One quote in the video (at 5:37)  caught my ear:  “Every act of Torah should be linked to another Mitzvah.”

Torah:  the five books of Moses.  The seed from which sprouted Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Mitzvah:  literally, commandment.  But in this context, Dr. Epstein seems to be referring more to a mitzveh, or a good deed.

So, in saying that “every act of Torah should be linked to another Mitzvah”, Dr. Epstein echoes the familiar refrain of faith and works.  And his work echoes this refrain as well.

God is good!

Lazarus, come out!


 

I invite you, while considering the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, to reflect on this image. And meditate on how Christ (1) is inviting each of us to healing; (2) can raise us each from our little deaths; and (3) wants to enlist us in bringing others to His healing love.

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Updated

thesaltyslug

This Lent I was introduced to the beautiful art of Carl Heinrich Bloch.  He was influenced by Rembrandt. “The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.” Enjoy!

“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Annunciation

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary and Elizabeth

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

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This Lent I was introduced to the beautiful art of Carl Heinrich Bloch.  He was influenced by Rembrandt. “The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.” Enjoy!

“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Annunciation

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary and Elizabeth

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Read the rest of this entry »


Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Spring is supposed to be here in three days.  I don’t know if this was one of the darkest winters in history, but it sure has been one of the coldest on record!  We might have even set some records for snowfall.  The snow is beautiful when it first comes down, covering the earth in a pure blanket of white.  But after months of cold, when the snow has turned to a dirty, slushy and crusty consistency, it’s easy to get sick of it all.  When I was in college, we called February the Dark Ages.  By this time each year, we were sick of the cold, the dark, and the overcast skies.

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