HOW MUCH BRIGHTER things look this morning for Notre Dame. So many of us were riveted to last night’s live footage of what seemed a hellish conflagration. The fall of the spire drew an audible gasp in this presbytery. The passion of this gothic symbol of faith and history was sobering, indeed ominous.
It still is, mind you.
But it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all. The fire started after the busy tourist time so there were not so many to evacuate. No lives were lost. Rendons grâce au seigneur.
Some really good news has emerged form the bad. The fire brigade chaplain, Fr Fournier, raced in and rescued the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns, the second time has proved the right man at the right time in the right place in a Parisian crisis—he was on scene to comfort the survivors of the Bataclan massacre in 2015.
In fact it seems many cathedral treasures were saved, including the rose windows. This is good news. Indeed the structure is sound, the majority of the nave and sanctuary is intact if waterlogged and soot-stained, including the altar and, majestically, the cross. What marvellous work by the 400 pompiers de Paris who employed every ounce of professionalism to deny victory to disaster.
Arguably as good if not better are the pledges of money from the Arnault (€200 million) and Pinault (€100 million) families, and Total Oil (€100 million) as well as €50 million from the city of Paris, towards the repair of Notre Dame. Yet this is not quite the best thing to emerge.
So far this has struck me as the best thing emerging from the disaster:
A group—mostly of young people—kneeling and singing the Ave Maria in French. In fact it is an instance of what France, and Europe, and the west, need most: faith.
If the generous donations coming in from the wealthy are to be made “best,” if the reconstruction they enable is to be “best,” if the recovery of consciousness of our Christian heritage and culture is to be “best” and lasting, then we need faith behind it all.
Notre Dame was built by faith and in faith to express faith; rebuilding will only have real value if it is attended by faith also. It is not really a cathedral that needs rebuilding, but our faith. Faith is the only thing that gives true value to Notre Dame.
It would be a good thing to rebuild Notre Dame as a French cultural monument; it would be a better thing—the best—to rebuild it as a beautiful temple of a revived and vigorous faith. It takes a death to enable a resurrection. Where we oldies have failed, it seems the young might just succeed.