Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre-Dame de Paris.

At the center of Parisian and French national life for over 850 years, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris narrowly escaped destruction last night in a devastating fire that began in the early evening and was brought under control after hours of labor by hundreds of heroic Paris firefighters. Though the structure suffered considerable damage, the fact that the worst was avoided has lent a sense of hope and optimism to the restoration efforts; a souscription nationale was immediately launched to attract donations to rebuild the cathedral, and billionaire businessman Fran├žois-Henri Pinault quickly announced that his family would donate 100 million euros to the project. Another sign of hope is the news that many irreplacable relics and works of art in the cathedral were apparently saved, including the relic of the Crown of Thorns acquired by St. Louis IX in 1238, preserved nearby at the Sainte-Chapelle before the French Revolution and preserved at Notre-Dame de Paris since 1806.

Having heard the news of the fire earlier in the evening, late last night I walked to the Seine to observe what I could of the burning cathedral and to keep vigil with others who would be watching. Nestled among the expected gawkers, there was a large group singing the Je vous salue, Marie continuously in an elegant modern setting that is seemingly shared by almost all French Catholics. (I have featured it here before, in a post on my time in Lourdes last summer.) The damage from the fire will take time and effort to repair, but I nevertheless find signs of hope in the determined efforts of the firefighters who fought to save the cathedral and in the prayerful witness of those gathered nearby. I leave this morning to spend the Paschal Triduum at the Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, and as I do so I shall think of what happened last night on the first day of Holy Week as a surprisingly hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection.


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