The mainstream media and politicians have seen in the fire an immense loss for the artistic and cultural heritage [of France], which is true. But that is not the point. On April 16, 2019, in his blog under the title “Notre-Dame burns, and ...,” the Italian writer Aldo Maria Valli offered a meditation in which he compared the burning cathedral to the devastated Catholicism in France.
THE SIGN OF A COLLAPSE OF RELIGION
“Notre-Dame is burning and some statistics come to mind. Like those on the desert that is French vocations, showing that 58 out of 98 dioceses last year did not even have one priestly ordination (and Paris in constant decline compared to previous years). Or like those on the average number of Catholics who regularly go to Mass, which has fallen to 4%.”
“Notre-Dame is burning and certain designations come to mind. Like that of a recent study that speaks of French Catholicism as being “in the terminal phase,” since the country is now almost entirely post-Christian, with many buildings of worship closed, sold, or even demolished.”
“Notre-Dame is burning and what Cardinal Sarah said a while ago comes to mind, when he linked the collapse of Catholicism in France to the decline of the West, a ‘West that no longer knows who it is, because it does not know and does not want to know who formed and constituted it.’ A kind of suicide that opens the way for the new barbarians.”
That same day, April 16, the Italian journalist Andrea Zambrano authored in the Nuova Bussola Quotidiana an article entitled “Dead Stones, Return to God,” where he showed that the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris is not primarily a question of materials—of stones or of oaks—but one of faith.
“Reconstructing immediately will not be a problem: what will be a problem, however—and this is the true heartbreak, the real tragedy of a Europe bent on suicide—is rebuilding these walls, these woods, and these frescoes which, for 900 years, cemented together a civilization that today we call medieval, with a scorn that, exactly there, a stone’s throw away on the Rive gauche (the Left Bank), began to spread over all the old continent in the name of modernity. The tragedy is that these are the stones that have protected us throughout all these centuries, resisting the shocks of history and consolidating a Europe that has long since turned its back on its Lady.”
“These stones that have marked the union of a Christian people who today, simply, no longer exist. Having collapsed under the blows of relativistic hybridization, it ceased to be when European man began to think that he could do without God, trusting only in his own fragile certainty. Ignoring the warnings that with a mother’s love, in France in particular, were dispensed with full hands; and trading the saints, the great saints of France, for some easy-to-consume idols. Where are you ? Where are you, Francis? And Bernadette? Where are you (so many) Louis', where are you John Vianney, Joan, Thérèse...? Save France!”
“These stones had been cemented by a love that led to God. This is why wondering about the Church as symbol of a Europe that no longer exists, inevitably means wondering about God, about His expulsion from the earth. Do not fall into the trap of those who say that it was a symbol of the city and that it was, as President Macron pityingly put it, “a part of us (which) disappeared in flames.”
REBUILDING UPON THE FAITH
“Reconstructing will not be a problem, but we cannot rebuild, because to do so, we need this indispensable cement, given by a people who loved God and who for Him edified the beautiful with the necessary and the taste of eternity. Because in our eyes Notre-Dame must have seemed eternal, that was her task—to guarantee the eternity of the message that she proclaimed and the life in Christ that she promised. We have destroyed it. We have destroyed the eternal happiness that awaits us with open arms.”
“Do these people exist today? With what soul can Notre-Dame be rebuilt? With the same spirit as its fathers who erected it in the 12th century? Without the Faith, it will be rebuilt with dead stones: Ezekiel (37:11) says, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, and we are cut off.’ But these stones, like dried up bones, can still revive.”
“Notre-Dame was no more than a historical-artistic symbol which nevertheless each year allowed 12 million tourists to have contact—brief, superficial, impromptu—with the divine, which has not existed in their lives for a long time already. ‘There will be nothing left,’ said the authorities. Because nothing is the emphatic expression of pride of the man who, nevertheless, if he wants to reconstruct this temple today, must immediately return to God, to His majesty, to put Him back in the center of his life, in fear and faith.”
“Which he has not done for a long time: today, churches are being closed, being sold, repurposed, desecrated, occupied, violated, shared with other religions, traded for parking lots and museums. Today, humanity is moved by the images of the spire collapsing into a thousand pieces, without realizing that, when seen from above, Notre-Dame’s burning roof drew a huge cross of fire.”
“But what does it take to realize that what is collapsing, what is burning, is all our fragility without the Author of life who lives there? However, the churches trampled by human malice do not fill the news. They had not done so until today. There is not a single living church, if it is not filled with the sweat of prayer, worthy sacrifices, prayerful looks, hours and centuries of adoration and sacraments. Without all this, churches lose their soul, the cement that has maintained them for millennia. Meanwhile, they are putting up mosques, which in France spring forth like mushrooms. High, mighty, rich, while our churches go up in smoke.”
And to conclude: “Let's get rid of the shock, the emotions, the appropriate tributes, so as to return to God, immediately, without hesitation, ready to be martyred: nations, peoples, families. Only then will we be able to extinguish these flames.”
DO PENANCE AND REPARATION
On April 17, on LifeSiteNews, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana (Kazakhstan), delivered his comments on the tragic fire, calling for penance and conversion.
“Notre Dame is not only the most symbolic cultural and religious sign for the Catholic Church in France. Given that France bears the title ‘eldest daughter of the Church,’ her main cathedral also has deep cultural and religious significance for the entire Catholic world.”
“The destruction of a visible sign of such vast proportion as the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris also contains an unmistakable spiritual message. The fire of Notre Dame is without doubt a powerful and stirring sign which God is giving to His Church in our day. It is a cri de cœur for authentic conversion, first and foremost among the Shepherds of the Church. The fire has largely destroyed Notre Dame, a centuries-old masterpiece of the Catholic Faith. This is a symbolic and highly evocative representation of what has happened in the life of the Church over the last 50 years, as people have witnessed a conflagration of the Church’s most precious spiritual masterpieces, i.e., the integrity and beauty of the Catholic Faith, the Catholic liturgy and Catholic moral life, especially among priests.”
“If the Shepherds of the Church will not recognize in the Notre Dame conflagration a divine warning, they will be behaving like the people in Salvation History who did not recognize the warnings that God often gave them through the uncomfortable and unabashed words of the prophets, through natural catastrophes and various events. The tragedy of Notre Dame spontaneously brought to my mind the following words of Our Lord: ‘Or those 18 upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’” (Lk. 13:4-5).
“The tragic conflagration of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is also a propitious occasion for all members of the Church to do penance for the acts of betrayal that have been committed against Christ and His divine teachings in the life of the Church over the past 50 years. Penance and reparation must be made, especially for the betrayal of the command of God the Father that all mankind should believe in His divine Son, the only Savior of mankind. For God wills positively only the one and unique religion which believes that His Incarnated Son is God and the only Savior of mankind. Penance and reparation must also be made for the betrayal of Christ’s explicit command to evangelize all nations without exception, first among them the Jewish people. For it was to them that Christ first sent His apostles, to bring them to faith in Him and to the new and everlasting Covenant for which the old and temporary Covenant was established.”
RAISING THE SPIRITUAL RUINS
“If the Shepherds of the Church refuse to do penance for the spiritual conflagration of the past 50 years, and for the betrayal of Christ’s universal command to evangelize, should we then not fear that God might send another and more shocking sign, like a devastating conflagration or earthquake that would destroy St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? God will not indefinitely and shamelessly be mocked by so many Shepherds of the Church of our own day, through their betrayal of the Faith, their sycophantic serving of the world and their neo-pagan worship of temporal and earthly realities. To them as well are addressed these words of Christ, ‘I tell you, unless you repent you will all likewise perish’” (Lk. 13:5).
“May the fire at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, however sad and deplorable it is, rekindle—especially in the Shepherds of the Church—a love and zeal for the true Catholic Faith and for the ardent evangelization of all those who do not yet believe in Christ. And may they be mindful not to marginalize and cowardly exclude the Jewish and Muslim people from this outstanding form of charity. May the fire at Notre Dame also serve as a means to inflame in the Shepherds of the Church a spirit of true repentance, so that God might grant to all the grace of a renewal in the true Faith and in true love for Christ, Our Lord, Our God and Our Savior.”
“When the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris began to burn, there was a group of faithful, with children and young people among them, who knelt on the ground and sang the Hail Mary. This was one of the most touching and spiritually powerful signs in the midst of a great tragedy. May Our Lady, Help of Christians, intercede for us, that the Shepherds of the Church might begin, with the help of the lay faithful, to rebuild the spiritual ruins in the life of the Church in our day. In the Church, as in Paris, a process of repairing and rebuilding is a sign of hope.”