The Augustinian Recollect Miguel Ángel Ciaurriz reflects in this article on the fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, and its importance in the culture and faith of Europe.
It occurred to someone to say that the fire of Notre Dame was God’s response, in the form of punishment, to His children in Europe for forgetting Him and making Him marginal. And I must say that it made me as sorry as the very flames that carried away everything in their path. More than sorrow gave me, also, and not a little, rage.
To say that God punishes with fire the de-Christianization of Europe by setting fire to the cathedral of Paris is foolishness. Today I read that on that same day, and apparently at almost the same time, the prayer hall of the third holiest place for Islam was set on fire. Nor did God launch that went to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
God is not a pyromaniac who likes to set fire and reduce to ashes the history of his people, of his children. He wants this to be a history of salvation, of life. Nor does he plan to demolish a house, which for some will simply be a historical and cultural symbol, but for many it remains the house of encounter where faith and life are celebrated with gratitude and hope; it is God’s house too.
God does not do that, nor does he act that way, he does not sweep away anything carried away by his anger, an anger that has been endured for generations and generations. No one throws stones at his roof, neither does God.
With the fire of Notre Dame, everything that has been the symbol of France, and also of Europe, will not be erased from memory or forgotten. Not in vain do statistics say it is the most visited place in the world by tourists, about fourteen million each year. It will not be forgotten that in this cathedral were crowned Napoleon Bonaparte and Henry VI of England and beatified John of Arc. The most important relics housed in this cathedral were not reduced to ashes, such as the Crown of Thorns that Jesus carried on the cross and the image of the Virgin, owner of the temple, and many others that the firemen saved with the help of a human chain that came to help.
Surely Victor Hugo will revive again and his novel Our Lord of Paris, written in 1831 will circulate again, if he ever stopped, and will again be a bestseler that, by the way, I see that in its Kindle version can be obtained for a modest price of 1.70 euros. Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame will again run through the bell tower and will still be in love with the gypsy Esmeralda.
Yes, God is not a pyromaniac, the fire of Notre Dame did not provoke Him to punish France and Europe for forgetting their faith and relegating it to insignificance.
Notre Dame is not the only symbol of Europe either. The Mediterranean, that Mare Nostrum, which takes the lives of thousands and thousands of people who continually want to reach the old Europe and make it young and new, should also be another symbol of this continent that needs to rise from the ashes of Notre Dame.
It caught my attention, and it gave me some hope to see the spontaneous and rapid reaction of many French people, many of them young people who gathered on the grounds of their cathedral in flames and began to pray the Rosary asking for the intercession of Our Lady, that of Paris, so that from these ashes a new France and a new Europe would emerge that would put God back at the center of their lives.
President Macron said that the cathedral will be rebuilt and it will be even better than it was before the flames. So it will be if from the ashes of Notre Dame a new France and a new Europe emerge that turns its gaze to God.