Coincidence does not exist?

15 September 2021 18:00

Around 2.30 pm I get off the bus on the Tempeliersstraat in Haarlem. In the distance I can already see the Cathedral Basilica of St. Bavo (Dome Cathedral) rising above the houses. It is the first time that this church makes such a big impression on me while standing in this street. Perhaps that is because today I am allowed an audience with Bishop Hendriks to get acquainted and to discuss my plans for the pilgrimage 'Walk for Homs'.

Because I'm early, I take my chance to have a Chai Latte and treat myself to the famous carrot cake from Barista Café. Delicious. Then I walk through Kerkstraat towards the Bishop's house. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful streets in Haarlem.

Once I arrive at the Dome Cathedral I really feel like a small person next to such an impressive church. I can't find a single doorbell on all the doors I come across, so I decide to use the public entrance. An enthusiastic volunteer tells two tourists in scents and colors what possibilities there are to see and which tower can be climbed. Due to its success, the exhibition 'The Creatures of the Cathedral' has been extended, so both decide to visit it and climb the towers. When it is my turn, I compliment the volunteer on his enthusiastic approach and tell him that I have an appointment with Bishop Hendriks and that I cannot find the entrance to his home. He starts beaming and says he will bring me right away. We walk through the beautiful cathedral and enter an impressive corridor through a side door. The bishop is not on the ground floor, so the volunteer asks if I would like to wait in the hall. The smile on his face is even bigger now. Very understandable, because not everyone gets the chance to enter the Bishop's house. Meanwhile, I look at the paintings, the stained glass and the beautifully painted hall.

Less than three minutes later, the volunteer appears in the hall with the bishop. I thank the volunteer kindly and I walk with Bishop Hendriks to his reception room. The first thing that strikes me are the pictures of the Pope with the bishop next to it. As a curious person, I don't hesitate to ask for the photos. The answer is enthusiastic, but short. The bishop pours tea and I hand him Michel Francis's book about Uncle Frans. He is very happy with it and with that the ice is broken and we talk about my uncle, the pilgrimage 'Walk for Homs' and the interpretation of the special mass that he will lead on Tuesday morning 5 April. Wonderful ideas arise, so the service will certainly be a special one. At the end I will come back to the Pope, because I actually want to know how you are elected by him as a bishop and whether you see him often. Bishop Hendriks picks up his phone and proudly shows his moment with the Pope via the video fragment of an Italian news channel. It really is a very special occasion. Bishop Hendriks says that he was allowed to meet him again in June and that this is quite unique. He then explains how the bishops in the Netherlands are elected. I quickly understand that it is a great honor to be selected to fill this position. We're going through everything we've discussed again, checking the date and time on the bishop's calendar. It is very unfortunate if he is present in the Obrechtkerk on the wrong day or time. Then we say goodbye.

Once outside I walk straight back to the bus and completely forget that I would have liked to visit the exhibition 'The Creatures of the Cathedral'. So I'll be back for that one more time. Once home, there is a large brown cardboard envelope on the doormat with an address sticker from publisher Adveniat. Curious as I am, I open the envelope immediately. There is a copy of the magazine Klooster! in. I quickly leaf through it and see a photo of Uncle Frans and myself on page 67 with the caption 'For Syria and Uncle Frans sj: From A'dam to 's-Bosch'. It has become a beautiful article about the pilgrimage 'Walk for Homs'. Full of pride, I immediately think that the events on this day cannot be a coincidence.