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Colorado man finds faith in ashes of home lost to wildfire


Kat and Tom Greany I Archdiocese of Denver I Facebook

J-P Mauro - published on 01/05/22

An unexpected symbol of faith emerged: a statue of the Blessed Mother survived the inferno practically unscathed.

The wildfire that tore through Boulder County on December 29 has been quelled, but it took a tremendous toll. By the time it was corralled, thanks to the tireless efforts of firefighter teams, it had eaten up 6,000 acres and about 1,000 homes. The incident has upended the lives of hundreds in the towns of Marshall and Superior, but through the gloom, an unexpected symbol of faith emerged.

A statue of the Blessed Mother survived the inferno practically unscathed. Charred, but fully intact, its image has been circulating on social media. Mary is posed with her head bowed and her arms outstretched towards the ground, almost as if she is gesturing to the rubble around her. The image is a striking juxtaposition between the uncanny serenity of the quiet ruin of a house and firefighters still working to snuff a blaze in the background. 

The Greanys

The statue of Mary is located on the property of Tom and Kat Greany, who lost nearly everything they owned to the Marshall fire. The couple has been displaced and forced to restart their search for a dream home, which had come to an end only nine months earlier, when they finished renovating.

Through all this hardship, however, Tom refuses to lament what’s lost. Instead, he is taking the time to reflect on all that he has. With the fervent faith of the biblical Job, he is recognizing his blessings at a time when his family’s day-to-day life has been completely upended.

In his reflection Tom wrote: 

“Seeing this when we returned was shocking, horrifying. Awareness of the loss stings mightily. But we can only feel the loss as pain because of the extraordinary magnitude of the gifts we had been given in our lives. How richly blessed are we!

Sudden evacuation

The Greanys never expected the fire to take their house. Tom paints the picture of a manicured suburban neighborhood, with scarcely any trees to catch on fire. With few burnable objects to fuel the wildfire’s approach, they didn’t think it would ever make it to their front door. The Greanys evacuated with only their laptops and important documents, just to be safe, and left their home as instructed by fire officials. They hadn’t even packed a bag of clothes and necessities. 

The assumption of safety made the wreckage they returned to all the more poignant. Tom describes an unrecognizable hellscape of distorted structure and combusted comforts: 

“Twisted steel I-beams, disconnected from the foundation, had fallen onto the ash. On our front porch we could see the crumbled concrete of the foundation, bricks strewn about. And the beautiful designer front doors themselves melted into a twisted ball. But Mary remained. Covered by black soot on the right half of the statue’s body, she was unscathed.”

As though intended to be a source of solace for the Greanys, Mary remained as a sentinel, keeping watch over the scene. At her feet, barely seen under the rubble, lay dozens of heart-shaped stones, mementos the Greanys had picked up on their frequent hikes. Tom explains that the stones remind them that they have consecrated their lives to Jesus through Mary. 

Symbol of hope

These small stones are important symbols to the Greanys, helping them keep their faith close to their marriage. Now the statue of Mary itself has become a new symbol for the pair. Tom explained: 

“The statue is a symbol. Amid the smoldering ruins that hours earlier had been an inferno, Mary remained. As she will in our lives. Interceding for us through the darkest of times, praying for us to Jesus Christ, her son, Our Lord and Savior. It stings to look at this- our home and all of its contents were lost. The Christmas giving we had celebrated with our sons up in smoke along with everything else they and we owned. The entire neighborhood [was] gone in less than a day.”

The loss of their dream home was tragic, but the Greanys acknowledge that all that they lost was of the temporal world. Noting that they could not take their home with them to the next life, the Greanys expressed their gratitude that no one was harmed in the fire and that they remain together. Most of all they are grateful for their deeply rooted faith. 

Now, Tom considers this tragedy to be a call to follow Christ. Referring to the Gospels, he said: 

“I had asked for only one thing for Christmas. That the Lord would make my family holy. Maybe that starts with stripping away our possessions and becoming fully reliant on him. ‘If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ (Mt 19:21)”

Special collection

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila released a statement offering prayers and condolences to those affected by the Marshall fires. The prelate wrote: 

“To those affected by these fires, know that Joseph and Mary had to flee with Jesus, shortly after he was born. The Holy Family is close to you and knows the anguish and loss you are feeling. You are in my prayers and the prayers of our faithful throughout the archdiocese.”

The archbishop is at work helping the displaced by opening food pantries and coordinating volunteers with the Knights of Columbus. He has arranged for a special collection to be taken at local parishes on the weekend of January 8–9. Additionally, the archdiocese has pledged $250,000 to the fund from the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. 

The Archdiocese of Denver has also opened a Marshall Fire Recovery Assistance Fund, which is open to donations online. Visit the link to find out how you can help those displaced by the Colorado wildfires. 

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