How does one speak of the event of yesterday which sent shock waves throughout the world? Anyone who has had the privilege of visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is in mourning – but so is everyone who perceives the symbolic meaning of the massive structure that the world watched burning over and over yesterday during the consistent coverage on television and the internet. It was said often that Notre Dame belongs not only to all Parisians but to a world that bowed before the structural magnificence and the priceless beauty of design and artistic jewels of all kinds held within her walls.
I have been privileged, as a high school French teacher and a Roman Catholic, to stand in the light of her more than 800 years of existence and feel the holiness that is not confined to one manner of religious practice but transcends all in the energy and splendor of the place. There are no words adequate to measure the loss. President Macron has vowed to see that the structure is rebuilt and one can only hope his promise is fulfilled. But like so many such efforts, it will never be the same. The wooden structure will likely be replaced by more fire-retardant materials and the prayers of nearly a millennium of pilgrims will be hard to replace.
But wait! There is possibility of a sort. President Macron promised to begin today to solicit donations from around the world of people who desire to restore this most precious icon of art and faith. Perhaps such a worldwide effort will create something symbolic that speaks of our connection, a striving for unity of purpose that will stand as a new way of building cohesion. Perhaps in the rebuilding we will achieve a new kind of universal claim of ownership, a recognition of need for beauty, peace and willingness to participate in something larger than ourselves where all are welcome to visit and find a home. Perhaps in our corporate loss we will find a widening of our hearts, a willingness to create something beautiful for God and one another.
May it be so, we pray.