In my updated post about the Notre Dame fire, I mentioned Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, the French priest (and chaplain to the Paris Fire Dept.) who went into the burning cathedral to rescue both the Crown of Thorns, which was housed there, and the Blessed Sacrament.
He gave a television interview (see the video) in French, but someone on Reddit came to the rescue of us non-French-speakers with a partial transcript and translation (see the text below the video) of his remarks.
I have to say, I like him even more now than I did when he was just a hero priest with great facial hair. The man has his priorities straight, and I absolutely love that he stopped to give benediction of the Cathedral with the Blessed Sacrament, calling upon Jesus “to help us save His home.”
I am father Fournier, chaplain-major at the Paris Fire Brigade and I was the chaplain on duty this 15th of April when an extraordinary fire occurred in the Notre-Dame cathedral.
As I was on duty, I was called on the scene, and right away two things must absolutely be done: save this unfathomable treasure that is the crown of thorns, and of course our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.
As I entered the cathedral, there was little smoke and almost no heat, but we had a vision of what hell may be: like waterfalls of fire pouring down from the openings in the roof, due to the downfall not only of the spire but also of other smaller debris in the choir.
I was escorted by a senior officer; the difficulty was in finding the holder of the code to the safe that sheltered the Crown of Thorns. This took us much time, and during this quest for the code a team of firefighters was trying to break open the safe, and they did just as I got a hold of the keys.
The relic was then extracted [from the building] and guarded by police officers.
Everybody understands that the Crown of Thorns is an absolutely unique and extraordinary relic, but the Blessed Sacrament is our Lord, really present in his body, soul, divinity and humanity and you understand that it is hard to see someone you love perish in the blaze. As firefighters we often see casualties from fire and we know its effects, this is why I sought to preserve above all the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Something about Macron and the fact that there were 400 up to 600 firefighters on scene…]
[Compliments to the general officer commanding the Paris fire brigade who showed exceptional leadership…]
The time when the fire attacked the northern bell tower and we started to fear losing it, was exactly the time when I rescued the Blessed Sacrament. And I did not want to simply leave with Jesus: I took the opportunity to perform a Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.
Here I am completely alone in the cathedral, in the middle of burning debris falling down from the ceiling, I call upon Jesus to help us save His home.
It was probably both this and the excellent general maneuver of the firefighters that led to the stopping of the fire, the ultimate rescuing of the northern tower and subsequently of the other one.
We started Lent by imposing ashes and saying “remember you are dust,” and truly this was a miniature Lent: the Cathedral went to ashes, not to disappear, but to emerge stronger, as we Christians are, after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.