Two Punishments From God: Coronavirus Pandemic and Notre Dame Cathedral Fire
What is common between the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris in 2019 and the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020? Two things: (1) both events shocked the world either right before Easter (in case of the fire) or during Easter itself (in case of the pandemic) and (2) both events were punishments from God for the sins of the world and for the increasing worldliness of the Church. Unfortunately, neither event was interpreted as such and therefore neither of them inspired the change of hearts that God was calling upon by sending these tragedies.
Considering the dramatic expansion of the punishment – from one closed Paris church during Easter 2019 to almost all the world under lockdown during Easter 2020, from a few injured emergency workers in 2019 to hundreds of thousands dead in 2020 and from a few hundred million dollars in damages in 2019 to the whole world economy in a deep crisis a year later – it is scary to think what will happen next if the world continues to live in sin and the Church continues to be more concerned about the pagan world’s opinions than about its mission of leading souls to heaven.
Why would God allow burning down one of the oldest, most beautiful and history-filled churches in the world such as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris? Why would a year later loving God shut down most of the churches around the world and do it on Easter?
Before the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral along with many other world’s oldest and most beautiful churches for the most part was turned into a museum for tourists where more pictures were taken than prayers said. Being one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the most visited city of the world, Notre Dame Cathedral was the symbol of this sacrilege of churches becoming museums where people come to church to satisfy their curiosity and vanity but not to repent for their sins and not to give glory to God. The roots of this insult to God and of many other sins are in local parish communities around the world many of whom no longer call their parishioners to be saints, no longer teach the true doctrine of the Catholic Church and no longer evangelize those who do not belong to the Catholic Church. This departure from the key mission of the Church unfortunately is supported at the highest levels of the Church – cardinals and bishops – many of whom attempt to transform the church according to the worldly sinful trends instead of attempting to transform the world according to the teachings of Christ. In the context of this massive lukewarmness and ever-weakening ability of the Church to renew itself from within, God had to shake things up with extraordinary events that would invite people and the Church to conversion.
If there is one day in a year when we are called to die to our sins and to rise to a new life that day is Easter – the day when Christ rose from the dead after dying for our sins. Therefore it is no coincidence that the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral happened a few days before Easter 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic hit the Christian world hardest right before, during and after Easter 2020. These two tragedies were God’s calls to conversion but both of them were ignored for the most part. Instead of admitting the miserable spiritual state that the Church and the world had been in and attempting to change themselves for the better, both the Church and the world done what they have been doing for many years and what have actually brought them to that miserable state – they reacted to the tragedies with the self-centered “feel-good” attitude in order to anesthetize the pain caused by the tragedies but failed to examine the real reasons that caused them.
When someone comes to Notre Dame Cathedral not to pray and not to give glory to God but to look at the art and to take pictures (or even worse – to take selfies near the burning Cathedral) and then post them on social media so that everybody knew that “I was there, too!” that is a sacrilege caused by one of the most disgusting forms of self-centeredness. But when the Cathedral had been destroyed and the picture-takers saddened by the “cultural loss” did they or the Church leaders who had tolerated the sacrilege and thus enabled it admit their sins and repent for them? Did they think just for a minute that maybe God had permitted the fire to destroy the Cathedral because he had been fed up with being pushed aside and abused in his own house by arrogant and selfish men? Not at all: the picture-takers and the Church leaders put themselves (and their feelings of sadness) at the center of the tragedy and kept consoling each other but avoided any questions that could have made them uncomfortable.
Although sacrilege and refusal to give glory to God are among the gravest sins a man can do, today’s world has a long list of other sins that have been calling for God’s punishment for a very long time: millions of murdered unborn babies (abortions), adulterous and perverse relationships among people, indoctrination of children into adulterous and perverse lifestyles at schools while preventing them from receiving religious education – to mention just a few. When the coronavirus struck, the world’s reaction was essentially the same as the one after the fire in Paris: a lot of selfish emotions and sentimentality and no asking why it really happened. “We will go through this together”, “God is with us”, “God does not want us to suffer” – you could hear anywhere you turn. But why should God be with you if you rejected him by killing unborn babies or enabling millions of those murders by voting for pro-abortion politicians? Why should God care about your suffering if you arrogantly reject his Commandments and choose to live to the “common sense” of the world instead?
When arrogant and sinful men reject the idea of God’s punishment that is understandable – they don’t believe in God and they don’t think that they did anything punishable. However when leaders of the Church say that God never punishes people they ignore the Scriptures – the Old Testament which is full of stories of God’s punishment, they ignore two thousands of years of the Catholic tradition which never doubted that God punishes the world for its sins, and they ignore messages of recent (and approved as credible) apparitions of Virgin Mary and Jesus that talk about the sins of the world that call for the punishment from God.
Probably the best known two recent apparitions that warn about the upcoming punishments and call for the conversion of sinners as the way to avoid these punishments are the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima and apparitions of Jesus and Mary to St. Faustina Kowalska.
During the third Fatima apparition on July 13, 1917 Our Lady said to the three children: “if people do not cease offending God, a worse one [war] will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father”.
During that same apparition the children also saw a vision: “At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’.”
St. Faustina experienced a similar vision in 1936 when she saw “The Mother of God with her breast bared and pierced with a sword. She was shedding bitter tears and shielding us against God’s terrible punishment. God wants to inflict terrible punishment on us, but He cannot because the Mother of God is shielding us” (Diary, 686).
St. Faustina also writes that, ”One day Jesus told me that he would cause a chastisement to fall upon the most beautiful city in our country [Poland]. This chastisement would be that with which God had punished Sodom and Gomorrah. I saw the great wrath of God and a shudder pierced my heart. I prayed in silence. After a moment, Jesus said to me, My child, unite yourself closely to Me during the Sacrifice and offer My Blood and My Wounds to My Father in expiation for the sins of that city. Repeat this without interruption throughout the entire Holy Mass. Do this for seven days” (Diary, 39). It is believed that the city referred to in this apparition was Warsaw which was prevented from God’s punishment during the life of St. Faustina (due to her prayers and faithfulness to Jesus). However about one year after her death World War II broke out and Warsaw was completely destroyed.
The four visions described above confirm to us that God punishes people for their sins and common characteristics of these punishments are suffering to and destruction of multitudes of people – through wars, famines, persecutions and destructions of entire cities. Notre Dame Cathedral fire can be considered as God’s punishment because it caused emotional shock for the tens of millions of people in France and hundreds of millions around the world as one of the symbols of France and the Western civilization was burning. Coronavirus pandemic fits into the definition of God’s punishment even more as it affects billions of people all over the world: through death, illness, emotional stress and economic destruction.
If during Fatima apparitions we were told that God was going to punish the world of the early 20th century for their sins we can be assured that the sacrilege, moral corruption and aggressive atheism of the 21st century has been calling for even greater calamities. As of today, coronavirus still looks like a relatively gentle punishment compared with World War II but if the world stays on the same sinful track there is no doubt that much worse punishments are coming in the near future.
An interesting parallel between the punishments prophesied in Fatima and the coronavirus pandemic is that Our Lady in Fatima said that Communist Russia will be used as a tool to punish the world in the 20th century while coronavirus originated and was spread around the world by another Communist country – China. It is ironic that God is using Chinese coronavirus to punish the Western world knowing that today’s China was essentially created by the greed of the West itself; greedy Western businesses wanted to cut their production costs by making cheap products in China and corrupt Western politicians enabled that by tolerating China’s cheating on multiple levels and by ignoring horrible human rights abuses in China. Now the Chinese monster that the West has created is being used by God to punish the West itself.
If we look deeper at Fatima apparitions and St. Faustina’s visions however we will find that both of them are less focused on punishment and more on how to avoid it.
At the heart of Fatima apparitions there are three invitations of Our Lady that at the same time are the three ways of preventing punishment from God: (1) pray the Rosary daily, (2) stop sinning and make reparations for sins, and (3) pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. It is sin that provokes punishment of God and it is conversion of sinners that eliminates the anger of God.
We find a very similar message in St. Faustina’s Diary: a call to conversion from sinful lives by encountering Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Confession as well as promises of graces and protections for those praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, venerating Divine Mercy Image and celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.
Jesus said to St. Faustina, “In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy” (Diary, 1588).
Even with destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic we live in the Day of Mercy. There is still time to change our lives, go to Confession, repent for our sins and stay close to Jesus and Mary. This will not only protect us from the punishments of God but more importantly bring us into eternal happiness in Heaven.