When the news of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral broke on the Monday of Holy Week, I was en route to the Royal English College, Valladolid. The community of St John’s Seminary, Wonersh had been invited to join the Valladolid community for the Holy Week celebrations.
Having read of the many elements of ‘Semana Santa’ in Joseph Champion-Williams’ Letter from Valladolid column in the Pic two years ago – as well as from many other ‘vallisoletanos’, as local residents are known – I was very much looking forward to this visit. And, I’m glad to say, it lived up to expectations.
One of the most poignant moments of the week occurred within less than two hours of our arrival when, after our 13-hour journey, we found ourselves in the chapel alongside the resident community preparing to take the statue of Our Lady Vulnerata (pictured) onto the streets in order to meet her crucified Son.
I am sure many of you will recall Joseph’s account of the story behind the statue of the Blessed Mother, and subsequent devotion, in Valladolid. Following the desecration of the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cadiz, it was taken north to Valladolid so that the seminarians in formation for the priesthood, alongside the staff, could pray in reparation.
As Joseph described previously, this statue of Our Lady, which ordinarily resides behind the altar in the seminary chapel, has been ‘hacked away at’. Standing next to this wounded, yet somehow beautiful, statue with candle in hand waiting for the procession to begin, I couldn’t help but note the parallel between Our Lady Vulnerata and Notre Dame in Paris. While these events may have taken place almost 425 years apart, they both gave rise to the opportunity to stand alongside Our Lady at the foot of the cross and weep.
In this month of May, the month of Our Lady, we too can bring to her all of our troubles: the struggles of our own lives, and also the struggles and the troubles that we see present in the world, and even in the Church.
If it is important for us to be honest about these issues, let us not become downhearted. It is still Eastertide, and we are the Easter people. Let us rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection. Let us make ourselves ready to join Him in heaven. Let us make use of the prayers, spirituality, and the Sacraments which our church buildings, and the statues that furnish them, encourage us to embrace.