Here’s a transcript of an interview with Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade. He went into Notre Dame as it burned — standing there below a cascade de feu— and saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.
“[W]e had a vision of what hell may be: like waterfalls of fire pouring down from the openings in the roof, due to the downfall not only of the spire but also of other smaller debris in the choir,” he said. (Video in French below; image is a screenshot.)
“Everybody understands that the Crown of Thorns is an absolutely unique and extraordinary relic, but the Blessed Sacrament is our Lord, really present in his body, soul, divinity and humanity and you understand that it is hard to see someone you love perish in the blaze. As firefighters we often see casualties from fire and we know its effects, this is why I sought to preserve above all the real presence of our Lord Jesus-Christ … “
And then here is the part that gave me chills (italics mine):
“The time when the fire attacked the northern bell tower and we started to fear losing it, was exactly the time when I rescued the Blessed Sacrament. And I did not want to simply leave with Jesus: I took the opportunity to perform a Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.
“Here I am completely alone in the cathedral, in the middle of burning debris falling down from the ceiling, I call upon Jesus to help us save His home.
It was probably both this and the excellent general maneuver of the firefighters that led to the stopping of the fire, the ultimate rescuing of the northern tower and subsequently of the other one.”
Makes me think of St. Clare, standing on the parapets of her convent and holding up the Host, and the invading saracens turned away in terror. (Note: I believe reports which say the Notre Dame fire was not intentionally set, so please don’t make any rash assumptions about the kind of threat Notre Dame faced.) He believed so firmly in the Real Presence, he not only had to rescue the host, but He called on its power and blessed the burning church. WHAT A PRIEST.
Fr. Fournier was ordained in the FSSP, and survived an ambush during his seven years as a French army chaplain Afghanistan; and he was the priest who came to the aid of the dead and dying in the terrorist attack on a heavy metal concert in 2015. According to Newsweek:
In November 2015 he prayed over the dead and comforted the wounded at the Bataclan music club where 89 people were killed in attacks by the Islamic State militant group.
“I gave collective absolution, as the Catholic Church authorizes me,” Fournier said in the aftermath of the attacks.
Because he knows that Jesus saves.
I want to remember Fr. Fournier and his unflinching faith next time I receive Jesus.