Monday during Holy Week, millions of people around the world watched in horror and sadness as iconic Notre Dame Cathedral burned in a massive conflagration. Major television networks interrupted regular programming and provided hours of uninterrupted coverage and updates as heroic firefighters and other first responders rallied to fight the blaze and save this sacred church, considered the greatest jewel of medieval Gothic architecture. Inspiring reports of heroic bravery continue to emerge including that of one priest Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier who fearlessly risked his life as he made straight to save the relics and the Blessed Sacrament inside the cathedral.
In the ongoing aftermath, it is impressive to see pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars being made to rebuild this ancient symbol of Christendom and Catholicism which means so much, to so many.
While Catholics across the world reacted in disbelief and deep sorrow, particularly as they watched the cathedral’s spire topple, I found it impressive how so many people, religious as well as secular, “mourned” the damage unfolding before their very eyes.
Considered lost to many today, can it be amid the flames, people are being awakened to rediscover the priceless beauty, history and sense of sacredness this cathedral not only symbolizes but embodies? Can it be people around the world once again realize something is lost and there is something different that happens inside a Catholic cathedral that allows them to feel their longing for God and imminence of His grace?
I heard one woman say that she felt as if a family member had suffered a tragedy. Always a cultural presence, Notre-Dame de Paris also brought a sense of community; it is heartwarming to see how this event brought people of all walks of life together. The world witnessed crowds of people in the streets of Paris on their knees praying and invoking hymns that the grandiose 800 year old church would not succumb to the relentless fire.
Today we are thankful that the main part of the interior as well as many of the invaluable relics and works of art were saved and there are already plans to rebuild it. We give thanks to God and the Blessed Mother, who the church is dedicated to, because this church represents a most vivid link to the most Christian times in history, the Middle Ages, when the beautiful gothic churches were born.
As I reflected on the tragic event, I recalled how everyone was in utter disbelief when they first heard the news. Others commented that people will always remember where they were when they heard the news just as they never forget where they were when they learned of the attack on the twin towers. I thought of how we can all tend to take great things for granted. Just as many Parisians could have taken Notre Dame Cathedral and its priceless beauty for granted, that it will always be standing there. We too must not take our Catholic Faith for granted nor the cultural and spiritual presence our Church brings to the world. We need to be careful to not fall into the trap of casualness whereby we only become more fervent when we are feeling in peril.
As we proceed with these days of Holy Week, let’s reflect on the profound meaning of Our Lord’s suffering and death on the cross for our redemption. Give thanks that the crown of thorns Our Lord wore; which reminds us of His suffering on Calvary, was saved from the incendiary. Let’s give thanks for our Catholic Faith and pray for an always increasing fervor for this precious gift of Faith.
I feel inspired to know that as I pray for so many intentions, I am united with you and so many other members of Operation Storm Heaven. This is our family of souls, and united in our Catholic Faith, we can do anything!
May you have a blessed Holy Week and be assured of my prayers.
Thomas J. McKenna
Founder and President