I had the privilege of being in Paris 2 years and 5 days ago. We were there for only one day, and the one thing I wanted to do was visit Notre Dame. My travelling companion and I had a lovely lunch in a Parisian Café, and then we crossed over to the island. The lineup was immense, and when we got to the security checkpoint at the door, my friend had purchased a few bottles of wine earlier in the day, so she couldn’t go in. I went in as the emissary for the two of us. It was Holy week (as it is now), so the church was set up for the events of Holy Week that would be ramping up in the next few days.
I was just awestruck. Everywhere I looked, I wanted to capture it so that I would never forget. From the confessionals, to the transepts with a few quiet pews to pray for the intercession of the Patron Saint. It was overwhelming, and I wanted to cry the whole time I was in the building for the beauty and the history and the grace within those storied walls.
I lit a votive and said a few prayers, and I bought a memento for my friend, who was so gracious in letting me check this off my bucket list. My appreciation of her good humour in staying in the courtyard with her bottles of wine is many orders of magnitude higher than it was a few days ago – and it was pretty high then, too.
When Child was young, we called our church “Ghod’s house”. That has continued, and my not-Catholic gentleman associate still asks, when I get home from mass, “How was Ghod’s House this week”. I like visiting different churches, whether by necessity or by choice. My dad and I have attended a mass spoken entirely in a language that we don’t speak because we needed to fulfill our Sunday Obligation, and St. Gregory the Great’s Slovenian Mass welcomed us. I needed a church for Ash Wednesday mass between work and tap dance class, so I attended St. Margaret Mary or St. Isidore. Auntie V liked to go to St. Michael in Toronto when we were going to one of the theatres in the area. St. Columbkill church – including the belfry – in McDonald’s Corners would fit on the altar of some of the other churches I’ve visited. There’s been St. Patrick in NYC. Other Notre-Dames in the Somme, in Montreal, in a heartbreaking cemetery in Lorette… Each has it’s charms.
But Notre Dame is more than Ghod’s house of Paris. It is more than a part of the skyline.
Notre Dame was (and is) a true sacred space. It is a wellspring for the grace of both travelers and Parisians. It is a pilgrimage destination for The Faithful. The Lady of Paris has withstood the Huguenots and the Revolution. It survived world wars and uprisings. It will survive this, too. But for now, we mourn the Notre Dame of yesterday, and we look forward to the Notre Dame rebuilt.
St. Joan of Arc, Patron of France, comfort your country. Ease the mourning of all who are devastated by this fire.
St. Luke and St. Katherine, Patrons of artists, inspire and guide the rebuilding of the Cathedral.
St. Florian, Patron of firefighters, keep safe those who are called to duty to control the fire.
St. Vincent Ferrer, Patron of construction workers, guide and keep safe the workers who will restore the Cathedral.
This Lent, may I comfort those who mourn. May my efforts contribute to the strength of my faith community, regardless of where Ghod’s House resides.