Notre Dame Will Rise Again
Saying Notre Dame will rise again sounds so determined, bold and confident it almost sounds cavalier. Whether or not the Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt remains to be seen but what does seem to be rising again is the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church. In these very early days of aftermath we are hearing about miracle upon miracle that took place in the great fire of 2019 in the Paris cathedral. Conversations are being stirred and faith is starting to blaze again in formerly dead hearts.
People with faith-inspired insights are beginning to see this disastrous fire in a new light and I am one of them. Since my blogging tagline here is “seeing life through stained glass windows” I decided to share my many colored perspectives on this tremendous historical event. Like the multi-faceted colored windows of Notre Dame Cathedral, this fire is yielding so much information it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s all so rich and varied. I can still see the gold cross gleaming in the eerie darkness after the fire. Let us all glory in the Cross of Christ for it has overcome.
Being a lover of great stained glass windows I was, of course, horrified when the fire broke out. I also worried about the people inside; the building; the art; the treasures. I had awful visions of 13th century windows blowing out from the heat. Thanks to the good Lord that did not occur. And that is just one of many graces given to Paris, to the Cathedral and to the world. God revealed his power and His mercy in this event. I believe it is a gentle wake-up call before His less-than-gentle second coming.
To my mind, this event was highly symbolic of the Church at this particular time in history. With the many scandals swirling in the last decades we know our Church is deeply in need of renewal and transformation, but purification most of all. This mysterious fire looked to me to be an event of Biblical proportions. When I saw aerial footage during the fire, it looked as if fire had been hurled from heaven into the very bowl of the cross shaped cathedral. I could not tell if I was seeing hell unleashed or heaven’s purifying wrath. I hoped for the latter. At that moment, the fire seemed all consuming and I recalled the story of God swooping down and devouring the offerings of both Elijah and the priests of Baal. I felt I was witnessing the Bible come alive. It was both fascinating and horrifying in its power to behold. When I heard that the timbers holding up the roof had burnt, I immediately thought of dead wood. “Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on a bonfire” (John 15:6-16).
Many have left our Catholic Church and left the faith far behind them. God loves them but sees them as deadwood. I know He wants them back because He loves them, but I also took this as a stern warning that God is not playing games. He means what He says. The Catholic Church in France has also waned and gone through a real drying up. Perhaps this will awaken many to the reality of God, the True Faith in the Catholic Church and help them come back to Him. I pray it is so.
Knowing that the timbers burnt made me think, too, of those within the Church who are dead in sin or in need of renewal. I admit, abusive clergymen came to mind here. I also thought of this fire as a way of God showing us that He will burn up what is not essential and what is dead, while leaving us the strong foundations and the treasures. Since we now know that the walls of Notre Dame are still standing and do not appear to be so compromised as to fall down, that led me to contemplate the strength of Mother Church. God in His mercy allowed Notre Dame, which is French for Our Lady, to remain standing. He also allowed His Son Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament to be rescued by a priest, Fr. Fournier, who is the Paris fire chaplain. Perhaps providentially, Father Fournier’s name means fire tender. The “God-incidences” here are mounting daily. Fr. Fournier was allowed in during the fire to take the consecrated hosts from the tabernacle.
God our Father also allowed His Son’s Crown of Thorns relic to be rescued as well. He allowed this fire and all these graces and gifts during Holy Week. What a world class awakening! Divine timing is at work here in this situation. Here are we, moderns, now pondering the crown of thorns from 2000 years ago. There are conversations and discussion. People are praying and singing in public over this! What a magnificent testimony and witness. The world was glued to the internet and television and saw thousands gathered and on their knees singing Ave Maria, weeping and praying the Rosary. Talk about a free marketing campaign! This was a public service announcement straight from God. I was even able to share these heaven sent news stories with secularists and those of other faiths as a means of evangelizing them. They were receptive and very humble in receiving the many anecdotes coming from Paris after the fire. God was using the fire news, and me, His spokesmouth, to plant seeds of faith. I was excited about this apostolic type of grace as well.
Returning to the foundations of the Church
It seems that God got our attention this Holy Week of 2019 and has directed, in His fathomless mercy, our attention to things of Himself, His Son and His Son’s Mother Mary. Notre Dame Cathedral was so well built it has withstood other disasters and calamities over the centuries. The great fire of 2019 was not its only injury. However, the great lesson here is that it still stands. The Cathedral of Notre Dame still stands. Her bulwark is still there. She is still mighty and beautiful. Everyone can see that. Our Catholic faith is the one foundation we all need to build upon. Our Catholic faith is the fullness of the Truth. The Truth is Jesus Christ and He has given us this privilege of the fullness of truth and faith in order to share it with the world. Like the great Cathedral of Notre Dame welcoming millions of pilgrims and visitors we are meant to share this faith and these truths and encourage people with welcome. We are also meant to hold fast to the truths that are the foundation of our Catholic faith. These alone will withstand calamities and save us.
I was so struck by the fact that the roof timbers may have burned, but the strength of the church remained. This was beyond symbolic for me. This was true. Just as “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against Christ’s church we saw that the fire did not wipe out Notre Dame Cathedral either. I believe God wanted his French church members but also his world-wide children to see this and ponder it anew. How much more weight these words now carry with me, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:17-19), since Notre Dame was built on a huge rock in the river, God is getting through to many of us with this fire. He is using it to rebuild His Church, His kingdom.
Fr. Fournier, the fire chaplain, paused before rushing out of the blazing cathedral because he held in his hands the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ – God. For those who do not know, we Catholics call this the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion. He stopped and blessed the cathedral because he understood that it was God’s house and he asked the Lord to spare this particular house of worship. God heard and answered his prayer with a resounding yes. This hit me as the authority given to God’s priesthood and the Church when He said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:17-19). Again, God showed the power He has given to the Catholic Church. I write this on the birthday of the Catholic priesthood today, which is Holy Thursday. God not only showed us a good, heroic priest ready to die in order to defend the Holy Eucharist, but that the Eucharist will save us. Today is also the institution of the Holy Eucharist. I am marveling at the rich facets of the cathedral fire story. Our real treasure is the Eucharist, not the old cathedral building. God allowed the treasures of the cathedral to be spared, I think, in order to reemphasize what is important: the foundation and the treasury of sanctifying grace. I give glory to God for these many lessons coming forth from the fire.
© 2019 Frances Peterson
Featured Image of Notre Dame Cathedral:
Public domain image by Ian Kelsall from Pixabay.
Rose Window Image:
Public domain image by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay.
Holy Card Image:
Out of print; public domain.
Sunflower with Bee Image:
Public domain image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.
Eucharistic Elevation during the Holy Mass:
Public domain image by Oleg Illyushin from Pixabay.
The stained glass windows of Notre Dame Cathedral from the Notre Dame parish website:
Article about the Bees of Notre Dame:
Another author’s thoughts, which I found after writing down my own. I was impressed with this writer: