When tragedy strikes, the best of us open up our hearts and minds, kneel and, listen for guidance instead of immediately searching for someone to blame or spinning the tragedy so as to advance our own narrative.
The entire world watched in horror as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, a beloved 900-year-old monument to Our Lady and to the advancement of the Western tradition, went up in flames.
Our hearts, especially the hearts of many on this campus who have heard their own footsteps echo on the marble floor of this soaring cathedral, sunk as Notre Dame’s brilliant spire crumbled.
Political commentators immediately took to the airwaves to either mourn the fire as the loss of a solid, artistic manifestation of the ideals and beliefs of the West or to question why we care so much about a cathedral that some say embodies the worst aspects of our culture.
As the donations to rebuild the stunning gothic cathedral came pouring in, the latter commentators condemned those donating, saying that their money would better serve the people in Flint, Mich. and the poor throughout the world.
It seemed as if, for every person who donated to rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral, ten more came out to condemn these wealthy people and organizations for not donating their wealth to other and more worthy causes.
Why rebuild a Catholic cathedral built in a tradition that has shaped the world we live in for over 2,000 years when you could just give your wealth to nearly unlimited amounts of social programs? $700 million, after all, is a lot of money to go into any one thing.
This question should give us Catholics pause. Why should we rebuild this cathedral?
I posit that we must rebuild this cathedral because we have been given the chance to.
In this last Holy Week, we were reminded that through the greatest suffering of the purest, most innocent victim, the greatest salvation was won for the sake of those who are so completely undeserving.
A cathedral dedicated to Our Lady, the mother of God, has burned after her nearly 200-year construction and 900-year watch over the City of Lights.
Her bells have ordered the days of Parisians for centuries, and her arching ceilings and soaring windows have caused us to take a moment, kneel and look up.
No one who has been blessed with the opportunity to be within her walls can say that their experience did not change them.
Ever since most of us were children, we were taught that every single time the bells of Notre Dame rang, it was because that was the place where those hated by the world, but loved by God, were safe.
Our dear friend Quasimodo showed us that those whom the world hates, Our Lady takes under her mantle and protects.
Although this cathedral also symbolizes the architectural advancements made in Medieval Europe, the growth of the artistic and intellectual traditions in the West, the universality and steadiness of the Catholic Church and a great many other things, its most important function is to remind us of how we ought to be dedicated to loving and protecting the least among us in the same way that Our Lady and our Lord do.
A sacred reminder of this kind of love that we are called to has burned. Let us use this opportunity, this great tragedy, as something that can bind us all together as we work to both rebuild this most beautiful cathedral and to love one another, especially the lowliest and oppressed.
Two things can be true at the same time. We should rebuild this cathedral of Our Lady and we should also do as she asks of us by helping those in need in whatever ways we can.
In a way, by this cathedral of Our Lady burning, her bells have sounded more loudly than they ever could have before, calling all of us to come underneath her mantle to be with Christ.
I hear the bells of Notre Dame ringing. Do you?