Strong Like the Cathedral of Cologne
Before he saw me coming around the separator for a face to face confession, Fr. Eddy started aloud with his prayers. When he saw it was me he stopped, “Jorge, how are you? How are you and your family?” He wore his usual smile and, as always, slowly articulated his words. We had known each other for years— so long he had baptized two of my daughters who were now 18 and 12.
“How is your new position?” He recited – slowly.
“It’s going really well,” I replied. “Times are tough, but our company is doing well and my boss really likes my work.”
“You are like the Cathedral in Cologne,” he said pausing. He waited as if expecting me to understand. I guess my confused look told him otherwise. So he proceeded to explain.
During World War II Cologne, a German city near the French border, was hit hard. The city was heavily bombed with the cathedral taking 14 direct hits from aerial bombers. Despite the pounding, the cathedral never collapsed. The contrast between one of the world’s largest churches and the surrounding rubble was so striking many believers attributed it to divine intervention. I looked the Cathedral of Cologne up and understood. I have included the picture along with this article.
“With the stories I hear every day,” Fr. Eddy commented, “you should be grateful. You are like the Cathedral of Cologne.”
His message was so timely. Financial pressures had been eating away at me. My wife had recently lost her job. My current job paid well, but debt that had piled up when I was out of work made paying the monthly bills next to impossible. That picture gave me some perspective. It helped me frame my so called “problems” differently.
I had a ton of stress in my life. It unnerved me and I was hoping for to receive some mental relief from confession. Yet I was standing and stood in stark contrast to so many around me who were out of work and in more real trouble that me. I wasn’t solid financially, but started thinking about the cathedral. It was still standing, but could it have been just inches from collapsing? Could the 15th bomb have been the one to take it down?
My spiritual strength and endurance are priceless gifts. I thank God I have them. But they do not immunize me from suffering and I think that what I expected. The cathedral helped me see my spiritual and emotional tug-of-war as inevitable – just part of being human. My physical and emotional responses then were less as a sign of weakness and more a function of being alive.
I had so much to be grateful for. I enjoyed my job. It matched my talents well and the company was doing well. My wife was out of work, but the time off had given us time to rekindle our love. We would soon celebrate our 25th
wedding anniversary soon. My daughters were healthy, doing well at school, and, most importantly, they were making smart life decisions.
Those thoughts were very consoling, but so was the thought all these “feeling” are a part of that adventure. All my perfectionist tendencies drive me to believe that I should be able to work hard enough, spiritually in this case, to overcome them. You’d think I should be able to make myself, maybe even force myself, to overcome feeling vulnerable and inadequate. But that’s just a not the way it works.
The facts reveal that I am standing. The facts also reveal that I have not at my best. My spiritual walk can help me see it joyfully as God sees it and doesn’t necessarily protect me from pain. I am standing yet at the same time I am hurting. I have control of some things, but when you get right down to it, I am in control of nothing. The facts are what they are and working to accept the facts and not fight them reveals a little glimpse of God’s love which is what I am after anyway.