A Falling Cross

Today in the news was a story that is both tragic and somewhat bizarre - a man was crushed to death by a Jesus statue that fell from a crucifix near where the man stood, crushing him to death and injuring another man. This incident occurred in Italy, a region where there is no shortage of crucifixes given the seat of Catholic authority resides in a country in the heart of Rome, and the crucifix was only recently erected in the honor of former Pope John Paul II. For more details on the specifics of the incident, see the BBC News article references on the bottom of this article. Rather than focus on the details of what exactly happened, let's take a moment to imagine what that incident must have been like. This is, of course, entirely hypothetical and is not meant to defame the man who was tragically killed in this unfortunate accident.


Faith and Life in the Church

If you have been raised as a devout member of the Catholic faith, then from birth you have been shaped to be a person who knows the importance of prayer, contrition, sacraments, and all manner of religious rituals that bring you closer to your inevitable admission into heaven at the end of your benevolent life. If you remain faithful in the church throughout your life, death will still be a tragedy, but it will have a silver lining that in many ways simply does not exist for people who live without such faith. Death is a nebulous darkness at the end of a long and difficult road of life, however if you believe in an afterlife (Catholic or otherwise), and you believe that you will be admitted to a positive and joyous version of this post credits scene of your life, then death is not a hopeless defeat. It is merely the end of one part of your eternal existence. Certainly, you would never want to hasten your death or that of any other person, but you should view the deaths of others as a blessing in that they will be reunited with their lord and savior in heaven.

While all religions have their share of symbolism and secret meanings, few can match the sheer array of intricate rituals and symbols constructed by the Catholic faith. Given the commandment banning idol worship and the many cautionary biblical tales of golden calves and the like to that effect, it can in fact be rather perplexing to see that your church is filled with extravagant statues of saints or of Jesus or Mary themselves. But this bizarre contradiction aside, these symbols will inevitably hold great power and meaning for anyone of the Catholic (or any Christian) faith, and they will allow for rapid and immediate communication of ideas between people who believe in the same core tenants of why we are here and where we are going. A crucifix, with or without a dying Jesus attached thereto, is not merely a pair of sticks used commonly by Romans as a means of torture and execution. Instead, it is a symbol of the death of Jesus, who is himself a symbol of rebirth, freedom from sin, and salvation, providing an impossible to match role model for all Catholics to live their lives by.

As a devout Catholic, you and your family go to church at least every week, and in all likelihood you will end up going more often than that. You will send your children to sunday school where they will begin to learn and appreciate the finer points of the Bible and of life in the Catholic church. They will learn about Jesus, and about the power of the crucifix and the importance of being kind to all. They will learn that gay people are immoral abominations and that abortion is murder regardless of the timing or circustance. And they will begin to become just like you. At birth they will be baptized into the church, and in time they will begin to take communion and participate in other church rituals that will make them feel part of a robust community that might seem confusing to outsiders, but that will give them meaning and direction in their lives. They will come to respect the church, and they will love Jesus and the religion as a whole. Certainly, everyone will face trials of their faith, and some may lose their way from the church for a time, but you will always do all you can to bring them back to the church with forgiveness and prayer. And yes, your son will face hard times and will falter in his belief in the power or the importance of the church, but you will never give up on him and you will not stop attempting to bring him back to God.

So what do you do when your son is killed at the foot of a large crucifix by Jesus himself?


Perhaps you have not heard from him in many months since your last fight in which he swore he would never again attend a church service with the family. Indeed, you assumed he was living his life in the city and you had no idea that he was in town, let alone that he had been visiting with the new crucifix atop the hill. And true, it had been a windy day, but not overly so - how could anyone expect such a large statue to suddenly fall, with no notice and no time to get out of the way? And what was your son doing there in the first place?

Perhaps, he had come back to town to make amends with you and with the family, as he had once again found his faith in Jesus and in the Catholic Church as a whole. Then his visit to the crucifix may have been a symbolic gesture of prayer on his part - an attempt to reconnect with God and with his savior through prayer. Maybe he was kneeling at the foot of the statue, praying for forgiveness for his wayward nature. Perhaps before making the makeshift pilgrimage to the giant cross, he had gone to a priest in a church and had confessed his arguments and crises of faith, and this visit was meant to be his act of contrition to bring him back into God's good graces. All he needed to do was pray for forgiveness at the foot of the crucifix, and then he was to go home and see his family and explain to them that he was sorry, and that he would not stray from the faith again. And as he prayed, perhaps a strong wind or a rusted bolt shifted the massive metal Jesus statue on the cross enough that it broke free from its bonds and fell to the Earth, right on top of your son, killing him. But then, what are you to make of such a tragic and symbolic death?

Certainly, it must have been an accident and nothing more, but as someone who has been raised in the mindset of a world filled with mystical miracles and who understands the power of symbolism and of the lord God, it seems like an ill portent that your son was killed by a statue of a son that gave his life so that others may have theirs. It seems almost vengeful on the part of the heavens, a spiteful attempt to rob you of your son before you could fully reconcile your differences. Or maybe, it is a sign from the heavens that your faith has delved into the sinful ways of idolatry with your massive monuments to God, and this collapse was a sign of your need to renounce these extravagant worship practices in favor of a more literal and strict interpretation of and adherence to Biblical text. But then again, maybe this death was not entirely bad after all. True, your son was stolen away from the world far too soon, and for that you will forever feel torn up inside, but maybe he died now because he had reconciled his faith, and was accepted into heaven without delay. And if this is the case, then this symbolic death can only mean that your son is now in heaven, and you will join him again someday in the near future, when the lord sees fit to call you away from this mortal coil to enjoy your eternal reward, where you will meet your son again and you can finally reunite in joy. Yes, that must be what happened here.


This was mostly simply written as a stream of conciousness piece from the perspective of an imaginary man, whose imaginary son was killed in a false incident that mirrors the very real and tragic incident referenced both above and below. Who knows what the details of the dead man's life were, and whether he was there for prayer, to see the sites, or for any number of other reasons. And certainly, the accident was no doubt just that - an accident without any mystical or divine angle to it shaping the outcome. Perhaps the builders cut corners when they were securing the metallic savior to the cross, and because of these cost saving measures, the statue wore more rapidly than anyone had expected, compromising its structural integrity. Actually, the article has just been updated, and it seems that the statue collapsed at a ceremony honoring its opening and honoring Pope John Paul II, who will be declared a saint in the near future. So this hypothetical rambling does not at all resemble what actually happened, though it is no less tragic as a result.

Oddly enough, the BBC article below notes that this is not the first time that someone has been killed by a collapsing crucifix in Italy. So apparently, this is an ongoing problem. I must suggest that people stop hiring the lowest bidder to erect massive monuments with multiple pieces. But then again, who knows, maybe there is a nebulous entity manipulating events here on Earth, and maybe this construction of massive idols has irked this god like power, causing it to drop crucifixes on people as a sign on the need to repent. But no, that just seems silly. An accident is an accident. Stay away from giant Jesus statues though, just to be safe.


QR Code
QR Code a_falling_cross (generated for current page)