The near destruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris this Monday of Holy Week shook the world, as millions of people watched, in person or through the media, flames consume the iconic spire and roof.
As the highest symbol of Catholicism in France threatened to fall completely, many Catholics couldn’t help but see the smoldering monument as a figurative example of the state of the Catholic faith in France. Yet the morning after the fire, another image is seared into my mind: the golden cross above the main altar still standing and shining brightly amid the ashes.
It doesn’t matter if one is Catholic or not. Many people of all faiths, or no faith at all, have journeyed to Paris, the onetime cultural, political and artistic center of Christendom, to marvel at man’s architectural gift to the Almighty. And judging by the testimonies coming in the wake of the fire, many were inspired by the cathedral’s beauty to become Catholic.
For the last 850 years, the majestic Gothic church has withstood natural disasters, profanation by Godless revolutionaries and war, all while housing such holy relics as a piece of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ. The cathedral is France’s most visited site. Once considered the “eldest daughter of the Church” for its early acceptance of Christianity in the second century, France has seen the practice of Catholicism recede and secularism (and Islam) surge to overwhelming proportions.
However, as the fire burned and firefighters worked to save as much of the structure, art and holy relics as possible, Parisians and tourists alike gathered together on the streets a short distance away to sing hymns to Our Lady, the church’s namesake, and to pray the Rosary. Perhaps, as before with Sts. Louis, Joan of Arc, Thérèse, Bernadette, Bernard, Jean Vianney and Margaret Mary Alacoque, and so many other holy men and women, God will bring spiritual rebirth out of ruin.
Please join me in praying for a renewed Church in France and that the memory and future restoration of this beautiful cathedral inspires countless men and women to come to faith in Christ and to examine their faith anew.
God bless you!