The recent fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France has been a devastating event for not only Christianity and Catholicism but also for art and history.
I remember studying Notre Dame Cathedral extensively in my Art History class in high school. It was a huge undertaking for architecture and a phenomenal exhibition of French Gothic Architecture. Over the centuries it’s been able to withstand wars, attacks on religion, and numerous renovation efforts. Through my studies, the Cathedral almost became like an old friend. Although I’ve never been able to see it firsthand, I studied almost every component of it from it’s structure and bones to the precious artwork that is housed there.
I studied it before I converted to Catholicism but after my conversion, various components of the Cathedral and it’s history made more sense to me.
When initial reports about the fire came out, I kept seeing the news alerts and articles about the fire… and my heart kept gradually breaking. Not only as an art history lover but also as a believer and a Catholic. My mind kept going to the worst place, as our human nature almost always does I guess.
Very initial reports said the cathedral would be a “total loss” and authorities claimed “nothing would remain” from this marvelous intersection of history, art, and religion. My mind went to the Crown of Thorns, the Blessed Sacrament, and the many works of art and other precious relics that call the Cathedral home.
The future of the cathedral seemed pretty bleak in those very early hours of the blaze.
Could they save anything at all?
Would they be able to get to anything?
Again, my thoughts in those early hours went to the darkest and most desperate place.
But then news outlets reported about what had been saved. The Crown of Thorns, the Blessed Sacrament, and many other works of art and relics were all on the list of items that had been saved. In fact, much of the internal structures of the Cathedral were intact despite the flames that destroyed the roof and spire.
While there were still some losses like the iconic spire and the beautiful latticed wooden roof, it’s pretty miraculous that it wasn’t much worse. However, they are still assessing the damage and there’s possibility of more destruction as fire investigators carefully plan the next steps to prevent collapse and further damage.
When the fire was mostly contained, images were coming out of the altar. Intact. The cross behind the altar. Intact. The beautiful Pieta altarpiece. Intact. Many other structures of the interior. Intact.
Many priceless treasures, relics, and works of art were able to be saved.
Are we the same?
Do we sometimes feel like our future is bleak? Hopeless? Like a lost cause?
Do we sometimes feel like we are not worthy of God’s graces? Like we’ve sinned too much? Like we can’t possibly be forgiven?
And are we quick to resort to that? Just in the early hours of the fire at Notre Dame, are we quick to fall into despair with our own lives? God, I’m just not worthy. God, I’m a lost cause, don’t bother. God, how can I be forgiven?
Believe me, I’ve been there before.
But I’m here to remind you: We serve a merciful God.
You can be forgiven.
You are not total loss.
You are not a lost cause.
It’s never too late to turn to God.
He will always listen and forgive.
His mercies are new every morning. [Lamentations 3: 22-23]
Just like the many priceless treasures that were able to be saved in the fire that Notre Dame, you too are priceless. And you too are worthy of God’s grace.
This week is such a fitting time for us to remember these words. Easter Sunday is this Sunday. Please remember that God is always ready to listen and forgive. Please remember that you are not a total loss.
I encourage you to talk to God this week. Find an Easter Mass, service, celebration, or whatever it may be…and turn to God.
Friend, please remember this: You are priceless and your life is a miracle, you were knitted together with a purpose and created in God’s own image. Don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions about your soul and fate…you are not a total loss. Turn to God.