May 2019 - Cathedrals on Fire
Millions of anxious souls watched in disbelief as the cathedral of Notre-Dame perished in the flames. The work of centuries by humble and God fearing men, within a matter of hours, was left scorched and in ashes. The tragedy of Notre-Dame is a striking image of our own souls which are made to be sanctuaries and living tabernacles of the Most High. A faithful soul will resemble a heavenly façade enclosing within itself the Most Holy Trinity; a rejection of God abandons the soul to a fiery ruin.
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
“Notre-Dame is on fire!”
The news spread throughout the world in a few minutes. Amazed and incredulous, as though hypnotized, millions stood transfixed in front of their screens: Notre-Dame, the cathedral of Paris, was being consumed by flames. Emotions overwhelmed us as we watched this noble and majestic Lady give up the ghost.
This initial emotional reaction, though understandable, must soon give way to one dictated by reason. Otherwise the most insane theories will be accepted as dogmas. Woe to the man who is guided by emotion—for emotion is a poor advisor. Emotion blinds men and ridicules reason, leaving the questions at hand unanswered.
It is always necessary to be rational, to refuse to allow ourselves to be led by sentiment, whose waves are capable of sweeping us away and drowning our souls.
Moving beyond the emotion caused by the tragic image of Notre-Dame on fire, we must learn from this event, without losing ourselves in vain conjectures about the causes of the fire. It is easy to blame the French government for negligence or to suspect terrorism. Maybe there is truth in these suppositions—time will tell—but what is more urgent is to draw what lessons we can from this catastrophe.
The principal lesson to be learned is the one taught by the men of faith who built this cathedral in honor of our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Over the course of two centuries, generation after generation carved this sanctuary. They labored confident in the knowledge that they worked for God and for their descendants, never looking for profit or praise. They were proud to be nameless hands working to proclaim the glory of God.
In the days following the fire we have heard, sad and afflicted, the pitiful speeches of politicians highlight in a singular manner the humble labor of these men of faith.
Are we the worthy descendants of these builders? Do we honor their legacy? Have we preserved in our souls their humble greatness? Are we still men of faith? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
The fire that devastated the cathedral of Paris offers a terrible truth for our meditation: when faith nourishes men’s lives, magnificent cathedrals are born, but when faith loses its influence, cathedrals die.
If faith ceases to be the guiding light of men and peoples, sanctuaries will crumble one after another, or—what is worse—they will be turned into temples for cults that desecrate these holy places.
We can discern an unfailing law: if man is no longer a sanctuary for the Trinity, he will no longer have any interest in building or preserving these sanctuaries of grace—unless, of course, he intends to use them for commercial ends by turning them into museums for tourists and marketplaces for temple merchants.
Before we think about rebuilding the cathedral to attract tourists, we ought to think about rebuilding our souls. A Catholic walking by faith is a living sanctuary, glorifying God, of which the cathedral built from stones is nothing other than the outward expression.
How can we rebuild these living sanctuaries, if not by imparting also to our own generation that spirit of adoration, that sense of the transcendence of God which animated ages past? We must invite men to kneel and pray, reminding them that only a spirit of sacrifice can lead souls to happiness.
Priests are needed to chisel these living stones and give them once again a sense of their eternal vocation—priests consumed by a burning desire to fill souls with the fire of charity, with the spirit of prayer and sacrifice.
For this reason, the upcoming ordination of five deacons to the priesthood in June is of the utmost importance.
We therefore invite you not only to pray for these young men but also to come in large numbers to surround them and manifest to them your love of the priesthood. Your presence and your prayers will communicate to the newly ordained that you are ready to be the living stones need to rebuild the Church and the world, and that, from now on, by God’s grace, they will be the craftsmen that fashion your souls and the souls of your children into cathedrals for Almighty God.
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria,
Fr. Yves le Roux