It really shook me to see Notre Dame in flames yesterday. A lot more than I thought it probably should-I first saw the news around lunchtime, and I had a very difficult time focusing on work during the afternoon.
I was trying to understand why I felt so strongly about this news-after all, this is a cathedral that I’ve never been to. I’ve never even been to France. Was it because it was a cool church, and because I was concerned about it’s treasures? Not really, that wasn’t it. Perhaps it was because this is Notre Dame, such a famous cathedral. Maybe. Certainly the damage done to the community and the pain that this brought was a part of it, too.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that the reason that I was so shaken was because of what Notre Dame symbolized in my mind. It is Notre Dame-Our Lady, so symbolic of the Church.
Vast, swooping vaulted ceilings. Beautiful and sublime stained glass. Statuary and visuals that both praise God and stretch the limits of human ability. Classical, beautiful Catholicism. Countless baptisms, weddings, confessions…
Notre Dame symbolized these things in my mind, and to see it up in flames evoked a notion that as I look around the world, I see these things up in flames, too. I can pretty much pick a parish at random and I will find ugly architecture, lackluster homilies, vapid liturgies, and poor artwork.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that this great praise of God with all of human ability and heart finds its manifestation in splendid artwork, beautiful architecture, and wonderful philosophy. Rather they have God as their first cause, working through human beings. These things do not reside within the building that has burned. They result from the human heart that recognizes the wonders of God and sings of his Truth, Goodness, and Beauty-they come from a heart that sings these things into the wood, the marble, the pages, and the air.
When we work to cultivate this culture in our hearts, this will naturally come forth. Notre Dame will indeed be rebuilt. We have the resources. We have the smarts. We have the strength. The only question mark is whether we still have the faith to sing the greatness into the walls, bricks, wood, and stone.
Many prayers for France and for the community surrounding Notre Dame, as well as for firefighters who may have been injured, and in gratitude for so many who worked to save what they could.
Thanks be to God. Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.