A Word on the Fire at Notre Dame

A Word on the Fire at Notre Dame April 15, 2019

I’m supposed to say something about Notre Dame de Paris.

On any other day, you wouldn’t have been able to stop me talking about Notre Dame de Paris.

Notre Dame de Paris, or as it came to be known in English, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was my first grown-up book, when I was about eleven years old. It engendered in me an obsession with becoming fluent in French, so as to read Hugo in his native tongue; and with going to Paris someday– none of which I’ve accomplished. I wrote my first grown-up research paper later that year, on Gothic cathedrals, for homeschooling. I could tell you all about the rose window and the flying buttresses.

But that’s not what anyone wants to hear about today.

I’m supposed to say something about the fire.

The last news I’ve gotten is that the building is not a total loss as was originally thought. Tragically, unimaginably, the spire and the roof are gone, the interior is surely going to have to be rebuilt. But the outer structure still exists and the towers have been saved, for now, as far as I know. That much is hopeful.

People keep telling me that the windows and interior aren’t original anyway; they had to be replaced in the 19th century, after the French revolution. Somehow, that doesn’t console me as much as it should.

I’m hearing news that the Crown of Thorns and other relics were somehow saved, as was the artwork, and I hope it turns out to be true.

I hear that one fire fighter has been seriously injured, and I pray for her or his healing. I pray for the healing of France from this national trauma.

I don’t know the cause of the fire just yet. Certain persons have already decided it’s terrorism and are speculating about which terrorists are to blame, which makes me ill. We don’t know that it wasn’t an accident yet. It could turn out either way. If it turns out to be a white supremacist terrorist attack, white people like me won’t suffer because of that person’s bad deed, but if it turns out to be the work of an Islamist extremist, peaceable Muslims will suffer horribly– not to mention the refugees who are already subjected to so much discrimination. So I think we’d all be much better off not speculating about who set the fire.

I pray that it’s just an accident. The whole world is a powder keg; nations already have so much to do in so little time to prevent genocides from wars and environmental destruction. If this turns out to be a terrorist attack that sparks another pointless war, I fear what will happen to us all.

That’s all I know about anything right now.

But I would like to urge people to stop using this fire to prop up their pet issues. If you’re inclined to view this as a direct chastisement from a vengeful God, for example– well, I don’t know what religion you profess, but it had better not be Catholicism because Catholicism doesn’t profess a God so petty or so clumsy. A petty God would just smite the local bishop or the bishop’s house, or members of the congregation one by one, if that was who He wanted to punish. A clumsy and petty God might smite the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris by accident, when aiming for the congregation, and end up killing nobody but making such an obscene mess. Our God is neither. Our God is Mercy and Love.

If you want to mourn about this being a metaphor for the Church in Europe or in the world– I can empathize with your frustrations, but we’d better stop it. If you feel that the Church, the Body of Christ, is on fire, remember that you are a member of the Body of Christ and start putting out that fire and healing the damage through personal repentance. That’s all any of us can ever do. Repent of our own sins and return to doing the Father’s will, personally, without looking over our shoulder to see if anyone is imitating us. That’s not only the most expedient way to heal the Church, it’s the only way she has ever been healed.

If you want to make some asinine comments about a pure, alabaster “Western Civilization” which has never really existed and couldn’t be preserved even if it had, shut up. There’s no dignified answer to someone who would hijack a tragedy like this with that kind of nonsense.

If you want to gloat over people you viewed to be “worldly” or “modernist” or “bad Catholics” somehow getting what they deserved in this, you are beneath contempt.

Just let a tragedy be a tragedy.

Mourn the nightmare as it is, without adding to it.

It’s quite enough of a nightmare, after all.

I had to look up the following prayer, because I never did become fluent in French:

Je vous salue, Marie pleine de grâce ; le Seigneur est avec vous. Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni. Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort.

May God have mercy on our whole world, at this holiest time of the year.

(Image via Pixabay) 


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