#2 on the List

cathedrale fermee
Screenshot from the French masstimes.com website

Zeal for your house consumes me. (Psalm 69:10)

Buildings that house the celebration of Holy Mass and serve as repositories of the Christian faith. We have such buildings in our towns and cities, thanks be to God. Let’s make a list of the most-venerable such buildings on earth…

1. St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome


My first reaction on Monday afternoon: Rage. How do you manage to burn down Notre Dame Cathedral by accident?

But it can happen. They accidentally burned down St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, in 1823. Damage far more severe than what Notre Dame suffered in Monday’s fire. They re-built, and the basilica that houses the tomb of St. Paul re-opened, just as it stood before the fire, thirty-two years later, in 1855.

Second Monday-afternoon reaction: Utter heartbreak.

Lyon has the most-ancient cathedra in France. But Paris has had one for a long, long time. The city became Christian with the martyrdom of St. Denis, during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

For perspective: We live in one of the oldest dioceses in the U.S. Barry Knestout sits as the thirteenth bishop. The current Archbishop of Paris sits as the 141st.

St. Louis, Missouri, got its name from King Louis IX of France, who brought our Lord’s crown of thorns to Paris during the century of Notre Dame’s original construction. St. Thomas Aquinas taught in Paris then, and prayed in the cathedral while work was underway.

St Thomas Seat of Wisdom

They had a beautiful painting of St. Thomas hanging in Notre Dame on Monday. Right now it’s at the Louvre, with the curators trying to save it from water damage.

In prior centuries, Protestants smashed statues, and the republican revolutionaries desecrated Notre Dame and dedicated it to a false god. The church survived.

People went to Mass there this past Sunday and Monday. One of our families in Rocky Mount took a trip to Paris just a couple months ago, and went to Mass at Notre Dame.

Zeal for your house consumes me. Now we have the most-sacred ceremonies of the year to celebrate, brothers and sisters. And we have a roof over our heads to celebrate them under. May God be praised.

I don’t think we have even really begun to fathom the depth of the wound done to our souls by Monday’s fire on the Seine. I, for one, am still in a state of shock–with dreams of an empty cathedral with no roof, and everything broken, haunting my sleep. And I was only in that building once, and that was almost seventeen years ago.

So the wound is deep. But a mortal wound it is not. Paris may yet have another 141 archbishops, or more–before the Church’s march through time finally ends, and the eternal Easter begins.

Notre Dame Cathedral gave birth to many wonderful, beautiful things—and she will give birth to more. May our humble parish churches strive for that kind of fruitfulness, too—here in our little Parises on the Smith and on the Pigg.

5 thoughts on “#2 on the List

  1. I checked the dates to be sure: Aquinas’ dates and the windows’ dates. Thomas Aquinas would have seen Notre Dame’s three rose windows which, blessedly, survived the fire.

  2. In spite of the fire, the cross still hangs there, shining out of the darkness, and the sight was broadcast for the whole world to see. Thanks be to God.
    Judy R.

  3. I can only hope that some good comes of this…. people come closer to Christ and our lady…. or France becomes more of the catholic country they once were instead of so secular….

  4. I love a beautiful Cathedral, Basilica, or Church as much as anyone. I love to visit them, particularly the older ones. I love to hear Mass in them and I receive great peace praying at each of the side altars for the intentions of the saint represented or the many priests who have offered many many masses at those altars! The artwork that we display in our beautiful places of worship is far more than treasure, the arching ceilings make for acoustics that can send a person’s soul that much closer to heaven as we celebrate the Holy Mass and other liturgies!

    The burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral is tragic; it is sad. If it was a deliberate act of violence, it is maddening. But Alas… they are just buildings, the artwork is material of the world. The deposit of the faith is represented in the physical elements that make up our cathedrals and other places of worship but they themselves are not the deposit of the faith. We are the deposit of the faith. And we must do everything we can to ensure that our faith continues to be taught through the generations without being compromised or corrupted by changing social tides and never-ending political conflicts.

    Just as I am not happy about how my tax dollars are spent by the government, I am not exactly thrilled to be looking at a multi-million dollar bill to restore this once beautiful building. Jesus never preached in one. Why do our priests need to?

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