watercolor church

Protective Grace in the Fire

by Connie Brisson ~

Wherever we go in the world, one of the things that calls to me like a siren are the old churches, and the older, the better.

I love the architecture and grandeur of their exteriors. Then I love to explore the inside with its mystical icons, statues, artifacts, stained glass, gold ornaments and elaborate paintings – even on the ceilings.  Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to behold.  It’s like being in a museum.

So it was with great sadness that I woke up on June 30 to hear that our local Roman Catholic church (St. Jean Baptiste Parish on Morinville’s main street) had burned down in the early hours that morning. 

The sadness wasn’t because I went to church there. I had only been in that church once (a few years ago) for someone’s funeral.  But that one time left an impression on me as I was surprised that this small town church was filled with so many beautiful things. I felt like I was in a church somewhere in Europe.  It was built in 1907 so it had a lot of the charm and grandeur of an older church.

For me, the sadness was about having something so old and so beautiful destroyed.  Something I really loved about living in this small town was hearing the bells of this old church ring on the hour, every hour.  It was comforting for me.

The dramatic fire here at our town’s church reminded me of a remarkable story I read a long time ago in Brandon Bay’s The Journey (Pocket Books 1999).  She was away in New York when she heard that her house had just burned down due to a big firestorm in the hills of Malibu.  After she went home and was wading through the debris, a reporter started asking her questions and Brandon wrote the following in her book…

watercolor church

(BRANDON) “Ten minutes before you walked in, I spoke to a fireman, who said he was there at the time of the fire. An ember had flown across the highway and though an entire fire squad was poised outside my house, ready to douse the flames, they couldn’t stop it because the seventy-mile-an-hour winds were too strong.  It was out of their control.  So the house burned down to the ground in less than five minutes.  He also told me something much more interesting.  He said the whole house burned down except this one room over here – my meditation room.  He said, ‘I don’t know what it was about that room, but the fire stopped there.’ They were able to douse out the rest of the flames.

(BRANDON) “Because of that one mysterious room all the neighboring beach cottages were saved.  So, if my house had to be sacrificed so that all the others could be saved, well then, that is a small price when you look at the whole picture.”

With this last answer the reporter seemed at a loss for words, and having run out of questions, she and the cameraman quietly packed up and left.

The fireman stopped by later, and asked what it was about that room that made it so special.  He seemed genuinely perplexed.  None of his colleagues on the fire team could figure it out.

(BRANDON) “Well,” I said, “I recently had this room built onto the deck.  Because it was my meditation room, I put pictures of saints from various spiritual traditions inside the walls as it was being built.  Now, I can’t explain the mystery of why it didn’t burn down, but if the fire stopped there, all I can suggest is perhaps there was some protective Grace in it somehow.  I can’t really give you an answer, but the important things is our neighbor’s house which is butted up next to it, remained completely untouched by the flames.  And for that I do feel grateful.”

(FIREMAN)  “Well, if it had reached your neighbor’s house, the fire would have taken every house on this strip of Malibu beach, because there was no way we could have stopped it.”

Shaking his head, he added, “I don’t believe in those kinds of things, but as a fireman, I know my business – and it does make you wonder.”  

(BRANDON) It didn’t make me wonder.  It seemed the signs of Grace were all over the place.”

Stained Glass in Notre Dame - low res - with copyright
Stained Glass Window in the Notre-Dame de Paris, France
© Connie Brisson

When Marcel and I went to look at the church’s remains, later that day, someone next to me commented on how well the firefighters had contained the blaze (as it apparently spread very quickly) and that they had even managed to save the trees that were up right next to the church.  The leaves had been burned on many of the trees, but it was true – it was remarkable.  There were also other buildings close (that could have easily gone up in flames too) that were not affected.   The front and parts of the back of the old church are still there too, so although most of it was burned, a few parts were still standing.

It made me think about what Brandon said above:  “…if the fire stopped there, all I can suggest is perhaps there was some protective Grace in it somehow.”  

And while we may not ever know exactly what happened to our town’s church or why it happened, it seems here too was a force of good or Grace that contained it from spreading.

Like anything else, fire is both an agent of good and bad.  In the right amounts, it can warm you or, in an excessive amount, it can burn you.  The trick, of course, is to learn how to contain it and master it.

This week, ask yourself how well you’ve handled the fires in your life?  When someone lights a spark in you, does that spark burn out of control or can you contain it?  When you are in the midst of a fiery situation, can you call in “Grace” to hold up an energetic exterior?  Can you let your faith in what’s good create a vibrationally charged, invisible barrier so that all of your life isn’t affected by this fire? 

“The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.” 
Carl Jung


Connie Brisson is the publisher and editor of Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine since 2004. From a simple black and white newsprint format that began in 1996, she transformed it into a beautiful full color, gloss magazine that was distributed throughout Alberta, Canada until the end of 2018 (with a readership of over 100,000). It’s now evolved into an online magazine that continues to help people heal, transform and live their best lives. www.mosaicmagazine.ca