Praise for French priest’s ‘act of faith’ in Notre-Dame

Praise for French priest’s ‘act of faith’ in Notre-Dame Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department Jean-Marc Fournier. Photo: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

An Irish priest who retrieved the Blessed Sacrament from a burning convent has said a French priest gave a powerful testimony to his faith in the reality of Christ in the Eucharist by rescuing the Blessed Sacrament from Notre-Dame Cathedral last week.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Fr John Harris OP, who entered Drogheda’s Siena Convent after a fire in 1994 which took the life of one Dominican nun, Sr Mary Agnes Madden, said Fr Jean-Marc Fournier’s actions were “an act of Faith”.

“I think it’s our belief that it is not just a symbol, that this is the reality of the Lord. The Lord is truly present,” he said, describing how when he arrived at the convent the nuns there stressed the importance of removing the Blessed Sacrament from the burnt oratory.

“It’s not just a symbol, it’s not just a pretense, it’s actually the real presence of the Lord. And in the same way as you would go in to retrieve anybody else who’s alive, it’s the Lord, and he’s alive. Yes, it’s a sacramental presence, but it’s still real,” he said.

Expressing the hope that Fr Fournier’s actions could help show people the importance of the Blessed Sacrament, Fr Harris said by braving the burning cathedral the French priest had reminded people that Notre-Dame is not simply a priceless cultural treasure.

“It’s first and foremost a cathedral, it’s the house of God, and it’s the house of God because the Blessed Sacrament lives there,” he said, emphasising that Notre-Dame is much more than a symbol of France.

“It’s not just a historic building but it’s a living building in the sense that it’s a place of worship for the Catholic community and the Mass is celebrated there,” he said. “Maybe we need to realise that and for all of us Catholics to remind ourselves that what Fr Fournier did last week for the Blessed Sacrament is really telling us that this is really important.”

Describing Fr Fournier’s actions as “a great profession of his faith in the Real Presence”, Fr Harris said: “If we have lost that, and if we have taken it for granted, then a moment like this can maybe call us all to think about it.”