People stand in front of a statue of Our Lady of Notre Dame during a vigil near Notre-Dame Cathedral April 16, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church’s wooden structure. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: More than a church

By 
  • April 25, 2019

As flames engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral, threatening to destroy a Paris treasure that for 850 years withstood revolutions, wars and natural disasters, dazed crowds formed impromptu vigils on nearby streets. They prayed, they cried, they sang Ave Maria’s.

In those early hours, when it was unclear if the cathedral would survive, shocked onlookers resembled people at the bedside of a dying loved one. A fiercely secular nation that by and large has cooled to religion kept vigil over a sacred building which has stood for centuries as a symbol of faith.

Even before the flames were doused and most of the priceless artifacts and relics saved, France’s agnostic president Emmanuel Macron pledged to re-build Notre-Dame. Within 24 hours a fund-raising campaign that energized the nation had pledges of a billion dollars. As was widely noted, the story of destruction and rebirth was apropos for Holy Week.

Where many Western nations are secular by convention, the separation of church and state in France has been the law since 1905. Catholicism is the nation’s most popular religion but, like most of Europe, church attendance is waning. Yet the site of Notre-Dame afire pulled huge crowds into the streets as a reminder, as one commentator noted, that human life is just a small part of something much more grand, something beyond human comprehension.

The magnificent cathedrals of Europe, of course, are more than stones and mortar. Anyone who has passed through their bronze doors, crossed their marble aisles, admired their works of art and knelt at their gilded altars, understands the other-worldly awe they inspire. Pope Francis touched on this when he called Notre-Dame an architectural jewel and symbol of faith that reflects the spiritual heritage of not just France, but of humanity.

The medieval craftsmen who raised up Notre-Dame with rudimentary tools would have been certain they were doing God’s work. The tools have changed but cathedrals still represent something bigger than mankind. Their sacredness proclaims the eternal truths of faith, truths that so often are muted in an age which argues truth is what you want it to be.

Magnificent cathedrals like Notre-Dame are anchors in an ever-changing world. They remind Christians who we are and where we came from. So when Notre-Dame went up in flames, the reaction in a spiritually adrift nation was instant and emotional.

Perhaps the tears and prayers arose out of sadness at the physical collapse of parts of an historic building, or perhaps they represented a deeper anxiety that was triggered by a collapse even more profound, a collapse of faith bluntly symbolized by the tumbling spire.

Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. But it would be a greater hallelujah this Easter season if the zeal to restore the historic church was matched by zeal to restore the faith upon which it was founded.


Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you. 

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Un artículo muy interesante, hace poco leí este otro artículo sobre <a rel="dofollow" href="https://tourhistoria.es/dia-triste-para-la-historia-por-el-incendio-de-notre-dame/" target="_blank">Notre Dame</a>, que he encontrado en una web que se...

Un artículo muy interesante, hace poco leí este otro artículo sobre <a rel="dofollow" href="https://tourhistoria.es/dia-triste-para-la-historia-por-el-incendio-de-notre-dame/" target="_blank">Notre Dame</a>, que he encontrado en una web que se llama <a rel="dofollow" href="https://tourhistoria.es/" target="_blank">Tour Historia Magazine</a> que pienso que se complementa muy bien con esta lectura.

Read More
pepe
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Un artículo muy interesante, hace poco leí este otro artículo sobre Notre Dame, que he encontrado en una web que se llama Tour Historia Magazine que pienso que se complementa muy bien con esta lectura.

pepe
There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.