Notre Dame: Good, Better, Best

HOW MUCH BRIGHTER things look this morning for Notre Dame. So many of us were riveted to last night’s live footage of what seemed a hellish conflagration. The fall of the spire drew an audible gasp in this presbytery. The passion of this gothic symbol of faith and history was sobering, indeed ominous.

It still is, mind you.

But it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all. The fire started after the busy tourist time so there were not so many to evacuate. No lives were lost. Rendons grâce au seigneur.

Some really good news has emerged form the bad. The fire brigade chaplain, Fr Fournier, raced in and rescued the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns, the second time has proved the right man at the right time in the right place in a Parisian crisis—he was on scene to comfort the survivors of the Bataclan massacre in 2015.

In fact it seems many cathedral treasures were saved, including the rose windows. This is good news. Indeed the structure is sound, the majority of the nave and sanctuary is intact if waterlogged and soot-stained, including the altar and, majestically, the cross. What marvellous work by the 400 pompiers de Paris who employed every ounce of professionalism to deny victory to disaster.

Arguably as good if not better are the pledges of money from the Arnault (€200 million) and Pinault (€100 million) families, and Total Oil (€100 million) as well as €50 million from the city of Paris, towards the repair of Notre Dame. Yet this is not quite the best thing to emerge.

So far this has struck me as the best thing emerging from the disaster:

A group—mostly of young people—kneeling and singing the Ave Maria in French. In fact it is an instance of what France, and Europe, and the west, need most: faith.

If the generous donations coming in from the wealthy are to be made “best,” if the reconstruction they enable is to be “best,” if the recovery of consciousness of our Christian heritage and culture is to be “best” and lasting, then we need faith behind it all.

Notre Dame was built by faith and in faith to express faith…

Notre Dame was built by faith and in faith to express faith; rebuilding will only have real value if it is attended by faith also. It is not really a cathedral that needs rebuilding, but our faith. Faith is the only thing that gives true value to Notre Dame.

It would be a good thing to rebuild Notre Dame as a French cultural monument; it would be a better thing—the best—to rebuild it as a beautiful temple of a revived and vigorous faith. It takes a death to enable a resurrection. Where we oldies have failed, it seems the young might just succeed.

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  1. Someone I was listening to last night Father posed the question— (this as part of a comment I shared earlier) I’ll paraphrase- with so much of Europe becoming so secularized— these massive ancient bastions of Christian faith are becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship— as everyone is now clamoring to rebuild— what are we rebuilding? Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art that can never be replaced or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?… I find that to be a very key question for our post modern Christian selves —

    1. I am always saddened when I visit Europe and see so few people in the pews of these beautiful churches. That is one reason people should visit Malta!

      I think you ask a good question that we should all consider – why would we rebuild? My view is that at the very least it should be rebuilt as a monument to Christian influence in that great country and city.

  2. I have been to Malta several times over the past thirty years or more, once to an ordination there; the only place in my travels where I saw priests walking informally in the public streets wearing their soutanes

  3. Malta is certainly a place to show other countries what being a Catholic means. No doubt some will take exception at this next remark but the fact that the EF Mass is celebrated in numerous churches is a wonderful fact.

    1. Sadly Malta is under threat too. They’ve had to allow divorce and so-called gay marriage. The pressure must be on to allow abortion. I hope Malta can hold out.

    2. Sorry to disappoint you, but sadly the EF Mass is only tolerated in 1 church, once a week, in the whole of Malta. The liturgy everywhere is routinely dire and the so-called music…..’nuff said!


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