The emotional outpouring prompted by news of the fire at Notre Dame de Paris has been extraordinary. It has been marked by both depth and breadth… A lot of us, it turns out, think of Mary’s church in the heart of France as a friend. And that friendship reveals several important truths and, ultimately, suggests a reason for hope.
It is easy – all too easy! – to become dismayed, distressed, and disillusioned in today’s world, when so many good things are being defamed, derided, and even destroyed, often by those unworthy to unloose the sandal-latchets of those they are attacking, or the makers of the things they are attacking. It is even all too easy to fall into despair.
But despair is a sin – reflecting a lack of faith in the God of all Creation to protect and preserve, ultimately, the good, the true, and the beautiful, despite the damage misdirected human pride and free will can do in the short run. It is also a sin, because it gives too much credit to evil. Things may rarely be as good as we wish they were, true; but it is also true that they are rarely as bad as we fear they are, either.
Take, for example, the fire that so badly damaged Notre Dame, le Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris: the jewel of Western Christendom, and what author Tom Piatak calls, in this essay, “the West’s parish church.” I, myself, was absolutely heart-sick at the thought that it might have been destroyed. And it is easy to see in those flames a metaphor for the plight – perhaps even the downfall – of the Christian West.
But the Cathedral of Notre Dame stands, and as Piatak points out, there is reason for hope. As my dear late mother would have reminded me, God is still in charge! After citing a number of specific and encouraging signs – which I encourage you to read for yourself in the essay – both before and after the Notre Dame fire, Piatak concludes,
“In the last few days, the world has been considering what it would mean to lose one of the masterpieces of medieval Christendom for all time. There is widespread agreement that such a loss would be profound. And there is reason to hope that the near loss of something that people have come to realize is so dear to them will cause at least some to reflect upon their attachment to Notre Dame and, as a result, come to cherish the civilization that built her…
May the near loss of one of the greatest monuments of Western civilization and an irreplaceable treasure lead us back to the Faith without which the West would not have come into existence, and without which the West will not continue to exist.”
Amen. May God grant it!