Fireworks and bright lights!

Fireworks display, Montreal
One of the most prestigious fireworks competitions is the Montreal Fireworks Festival so since my arrival here 10 days ago I have been able to watch three different pyrotechnical shows from the comfort of our balcony here. Montreal is really the city of firework connoisseurs. The festival is a generous litany of pyromusical displays involving careful synchronization of the fireworks to a musical score prepared by a different country every three days for the whole month of July. The grande finale was yesterday evening and involved a pyromusical display in tribute to U2. The local radio livestreams the music so equipped with the radio on my mobile phone I was able to follow everything! Well done to Italy who claimed first prize in the competition!

Used for aesthetic, cultural, and religious purposes, fireworks are a breathtaking experience. There is something about fireworks which fascinate me. I have been spoiled here in Canada because Ottawa is no stranger to fireworks either and for the next few weeks there will be various displays there too.
So why do they captivate me? I see them as a form of art.  Maybe it’s the bright colours breaking through the dark sky or those seconds of expectation as you watch the firework make its way through the air and then, boom, an explosion of shapes, colours and lights. GK Chesterson once said: “all architecture is great architecture after sunset; perhaps architecture is a noctural art, just like fireworks!”. Back in my home town of Athlone we had fireworks once a year at the end of the Town Festival and to be honest, they were quite humble although the River Shannon, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and the Castle did provide a perfect backdrop.

It is said that “fireworks have the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach.” Yes, there is something very transitory about fireworks and yet they mark an atmosphere of celebration. There is a huge build up and then they are gone. The sky goes back to being dark, the colours and shapes evaporate into the night. They're all over in a moment! We’re left with sensory memories or photos or videos. But there is nothing tangible, especially for the sponsors and the companies. Fireworks are costly afterall!

Irish pilgrims leaving for WYD in Rio
Photo: Irish Catholic newspaper

During the Angelus today, Pope Francis recalled how this time last week he was in Brazil at the wonderful event that was World Youth Day. However he warned, “we must not forget that the World Youth Days are not just ‘fireworks’, a moment of enthusiasm, ends in themselves, they are stages of a long journey, begun in 1985, on the initiative of Pope John Paul II. He entrusted the Cross to the young people and said: “Go and I will come with you!” The Pope continued: “Today in the liturgy, the provocative word of Quohelet resounds: “Vanity of vanity...all is vanity” (Ecc 1,2). Young people are particularly sensitive to how they are surrounded by a life devoid of meaning and of values. And unfortunately, they suffer the consequences. Instead, the encounter with the living Jesus, in his big family which is the Church, fills the heart with joy, because He fills it with true life, with a profound good, which does not pass away or rot: we saw this on the faces of the young people at Rio.”

So what do you want to make of your life? Is it just an explosion of colours and sounds but when the smoke fades away, nothing remains except a nostalgic gaze into the past?  It's okay to admire the fireworks but don't forget to turn to Jesus who is the Light of the World and reach out for a true and lasting experience of faith: "Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. We have all seen, during World Youth Days, the joy that young people show in their faith and their desire for an ever more solid and generous life of faith. Young people want to live life to the fullest. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives." (Lumen fidei, n.53 and 54).