The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral
The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral some few weeks ago destroyed one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Many people were deeply moved, especially those who witnessed the fire first hand. The response was immediate, and a human chain was formed in order to save relics, works of art and the Blessed Sacrament. Firefighters, security agents, experts from the French Ministry of Culture and the archbishop’s team collaborated.
The cathedral is a site of religious and cultural heritage, serving as the scene for important historical moments, epidemics, wars, liberation as well as being the protagonist of numerous books and paintings. The French government responded quickly and with determination to calls for the reconstruction of the Cathedral, proposing an ambitious five-year project of rebuilding. Similarly, some very generous people have already made important donations.
It is impossible to know what each of these people who worked to minimize the damage and who decided to be part of the Cathedral’s reconstruction actually felt. Certainly, the feelings and emotions that moved them are a mixture of sadness, desire, and a sense of responsibility amongst others. Yet these prompted them to offer their talents, be it experience in taming fires, economic resources or other technical and artistic talents that will be needed in the coming years.
For many, their emotions will have been similar to the one those Francis of Assisi recounts as key in his conversion process, when he heard Jesus of Nazareth tell him “go and repair my house, which is all in ruins”.
Francis of Assisi, as so many have now done with Notre Dame, had decided to rebuild a church: the chapel in which he had had this experience. For a time, he engaged in the rehabilitation of some other dilapidated churches and places of worship. This led him to a lifestyle that attracted some followers and which eventually led to the approval of the Franciscan order.
As time passed, these men went from restoring churches to helping the Church with their preaching and their practice of the Gospel (living a life of poverty, begging for alms, service to lepers, work for monasteries …). In this way they contributed to the repair the Church needed in the 13th century.
Even today, the Church is in need of repair. She must humbly acknowledge that some things must change, and for this she needs to welcome new perspectives and criticism. She must find a way to free herself from every obstacle that imprisons her and the message of the Gospel, escaping immobility and rigidity. For Francis of Assisi, repairing churches led him to a more radical work for the Church.
With Notre Dame, we’re taking a first step. Repairing that church is an invitation to continue repairing the Church.
Originally published in Spanish in PastoralSJ https://pastoralsj.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=item&cid=10&id=2256&Itemid=119