Two years ago, I traveled to the desert of New Mexico to attend a 24-hour prayer vigil at Trinity Site, the location where the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945. This year marks the 78th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9).
In the book Hiroshima, one of the Japanese survivors described the bomb as a “sheet of light.” I think of that description often on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord: “And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” (Mt 17:2). These two blasts of light could not be any more different, one communicating the glory of God, one reminding us of the searing-white-heat of evil.
I thought of that difference again over the weekend. On Friday night, I went to see Oppenheimer. The film was fresh in my mind when, Saturday, I received an email from a young filmmaker I had met two years ago in the desert named Tommy Byrne. Byrne had heard about Fr. Emmanuel McCarthy and the yearly prayer vigil and had been making a documentary about it.
It was finally done! I was able to view it.
“These two filmmaking projects could not be more different,” I thought. I’m not sure if the film Oppenheimer was “evil.” But, it required millions of dollars to make and has no doubt made millions at the box office and: for what exactly? What was the purpose? What was the point? I wasn’t sure. It left me feeling empty, hopeless, and confused. The other was a labor of love that sought to make meaning out of that event 78 years ago; Byrne made it, I believe, almost entirely with his own money, on his own time, when he wasn’t working his day job at a warehouse. It brings sadness but also clarity, beauty, even peace.
It is called The Meaning of Trinity and it debuted this past weekend on Fr. McCarthy’s YouTube channel. You can watch it here. Or check out the 50-second trailer here. Tommy Byrne did a beautiful job of capturing the spirit of the prayer vigil which has been happening every year in the desert for over 30 years. Please consider watching the documentary and sharing it with everyone you know.
If you appreciate his work, you can reach Tommy at meaningoftrinity at gmail dot com and you can learn more about the vigil here.