The Things of God Endure
Published on March 10-11, 2012 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
The stained glass windows that once showed symbols of the seven sacraments are now shattered. The walls of the sanctuary are gone. The roof sits atop a crushed Marian shrine. Only the stairwell had survived the storm. It leads to the basement where parishioner Helen Pennington and seven others sought refuge from the tornado that thundered through Magoffin County that fateful Friday night.
Helen’s pastor, Fr. Bob Damron, came the morning after to survey the ruins of Saint Luke’s in Salyersville. The church was built in 1991 through the efforts of this small mountain mission of St. Martha’s in Prestonsburg and Catholic Extension Society. It was one of the first things that travelers saw at the end of the Mountain Parkway. Now only its basement remains and the thousand pieces of what was once a place of worship litter its parking lot.
That morning, Fr. Damron and his parishioners rummaged around the rubble and retrieved the Stations of the Cross. They found the holy oils in their unbroken glass vessels and the Blessed Sacrament in the toppled tabernacle. The scavengers had expected to find disappointment upon disappointment underneath the debris; instead, they discovered signs of God’s unwavering promise for the future. The church was gone, the rectory leveled to the ground, a storage facility destroyed. But, what were most sacred survived the storm, giving us who believe an assurance that, even when the fleeting things of this world are blown away by the wind, the things of God endure.
There are those who cannot help but wonder why the Lord chose not to deliver the entire church campus from this calamity. That, they claim, would have been a bigger miracle; that would have been a surer sign of divine intervention. Yet, the Scriptures remind us that this is a God who spared neither His own temple from destruction nor His own Son from death. He allowed such tragedies to unfold so that He might reveal that He had something else in mind, that He had something more in store: the destruction of the temple paved the way for the Faith to spread to the ends of the earth; the death of His Son burst open the sealed gates of salvation. History has shown that God’s ways are always beyond our understanding, that His plans are greater than our expectations. As Saint Paul once counseled the Corinthians, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Only God knows what He has in store for the Church in Salyersville. But, for the rest of us whom He had spared from the storm, He has used this tragedy to preach to us a modern-day Lenten parable: our churches will crumble and fall; but, just as the holy oils, the Blessed Sacrament, and the Stations at St. Luke’s withstood that storm, so will Christ’s healing, His presence, and His Cross always weather even the worst that this world has to offer.