As I look at pictures of the smoldering Cathedral of Notre Dame, is it possible to feel hope? Why not sorrow, despair, and anger?
In fact, I do feel those negative emotions but I also have hope. The hope springs from the reactions I see and hear in people around the world. Tears and anguish demonstrate that people really care about this great cathedral of Europe; perhaps they care more about the faith than their normally secular behavior suggests.
I doubt I need to cite numbers to show how the Catholic faith has declined in Western Europe over the past several decades. I’m sure that more Europeans are drinking Bloody Marys than are attending church on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps a burning Cathedral will change things or at least start a change. People are upset about the fire for various reasons:
- God’s home burned
- An architectural treasure was marred
- The tourist trade will be hurt
- French culture is threatened
- It was a place to meditate and pray
- It was a quiet place to avoid the noise of the city
- The music was beautiful
- The windows were beautiful
Today, the place is a wreck. But it seems all the things that people are missing will be brought back. You might even say the cathedral will be resurrected, which is quite appropriate for this time of year. That brings hope. And it suggests that despite how secular the culture has become, there remains a Catholic conscious deep within French hearts.
The Cathedral was – and will be again – beautiful. And it represents faith, truth, and 2000 years of the greatest story ever told. Yes, as corny as it sounds, it is a symbol of all things good. Deep down, even the doubting atheists know it.
The president of France vows that the cathedral will be rebuilt in five years. I have my doubts about that. It took a couple centuries to build it. And while we have more sophisticated tools than the original builders, I bet they had more master artists at their disposal.
The French plan a competition to pick a design for a new spire for the cathedral. This sends shivers up my spine.
The goal should be to RESTORE the building, not create some new look. I fear we could end up with something like the Seattle Space Needle perched atop the classic architecture. This is a time for reverence for tradition, not creative flights of fancy.
However, as an artistic aside, we have what I consider to be among art’s worst creations in Chicago, the Batcolumn, by Claes Oldenburg. It is only about a third as high as the fallen spire but I have to think the city would give it to Paris, provided the French pay the shipping. And having a giant metal baseball bat on top of the cathedral would give it an international appeal: a return favor for the French gift of the Statue of Liberty.
It doesn’t appear that money will be a problem to restore Notre Dame. Some wealthy people already have pledged big bucks and collections are being organized around the world. I wouldn’t turn down any contributors. But I hope the money comes in small denominations
Current estimates are that the restoration will cost upwards of a billion dollars. There are about 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. So if we all pitch in a buck it should be enough to do the job.
It would seem so proper for each of us to have a part in this. It would be a truly Catholic thing.