(FOX 11) - It's been a tough week for St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood. Made famous in scenes from movies and television shows, this week the focus was deeply personal.
Police say before dawn on Wednesday, a vandal broke into the church. He attempted to set it ablaze, broke religious artifacts, broke stained glass windows and overturned pews.
Father Jose Magana heard the sound of shattering glass and ran into the church...but the vandal had already slipped away.
But the memories are harder to shake.
St Charles was my neighborhood parish for many years. I spent countless Christmas celebrations, Sunday services, weddings and baptisms at this parish. It seemed only right to attend services here this morning... to stand with others who felt deeply affected. The church was packed, and hearts were present.
Yellow police tape visible on the most sacred of places, the altar.
Father Jose Magana gave a lovely homily speaking about the assault on the church and seeking to calm people's fears about the attack. He reassured parishioners this was the work of a mentally ill man and the church was not specifically targeted.
His message was received warmly...
There was a reason that Father Magana was up so early Wednesday morning. He was caring for an ailing Monsignor Robert Gallagher. The beloved Monsignor has been battling cancer for years, and tragically was in the final hours of his life. He would pass the next day, without knowing his cherished church had been attacked. This was the very church Monsignor had worked tirelessly to renovate, creating a spiritual refuge in North Hollywood.
After mass we were invited to go up and see the damage. The arsonist broke religious articles, they lay sideways on a table. Vestments were strewn and religious books ripped apart to make fuel for a fire, that thank God did not ignite. And so on this Sunday....when parishioners took a somber shuffle to the altar.. there was also a deep sense of gratitude that it could have been so much worse.