“Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee! E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me.”
As I write this, my heart aches for the people of Paris, France, and the Catholic church. Watching the burning of this magnificent building was gut wrenching. As a traveler of many places around the world, I was hit yesterday with the same feeling I did when I was a kid and watched the World Trade Centers collapse – that horrible realization that I may never see it fully as it once was in person and only in nostalgic pictures. The sheer tragedy that this is to be the case for millions around the world is nothing short of overwhelming as it truly was a wonder of the world – a genuine marvel of historic architecture and gothic beauty. But much more than that, I felt an outpouring amount of sorrow for and desire to comfort those for whom this building was a symbol of their faith and nation.
I have seen many cathedrals and been to many buildings of worship around the world. The common theme I have seen in all of them is that they are without a doubt, works of sacrifice, labor, and love for the Divine they are dedicated to. Notre Dame was no different. It was a labor of immense sacrifice for the Catholic people of France. It was not only a symbol of their dedication to their Lord, but it was also a means to invite others to find refuge in His arms. It was a means to ease the burdens of the people of France.
I imagine the loss felt would be similar to that of watching one of the Temples of my faith, which have similar aims, come tumbling to the ground. I felt immense gratitude upon learning that many of the many priceless artifacts and world treasures stored within the building were saved. What brave souls were those who went in, risking their own lives to preserve history. Nevertheless, as I said before, it was heartbreaking to see the old wood of the building once placed by such hard workers burn…
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Easter is approaching and why I turn to Christ. I turn to Him for many reasons, but one in particular is because He teaches me a better way to live. Christ taught us to love others, regardless of their faith, denomination, background, nationality, or status within society. He taught of having an unending love for our spirit brothers and sisters. This teaching, part of which was to show us how to become closer to God, was primarily, I think, to show us how we can find true happiness and joy and share it with others. I think of the words of the song “God Help the Outcasts”, immortalized in Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”:
“I ask for nothing, I can get by, But I know so many, Less lucky than I. Please help my people, The poor and down trod. I thought we all were, Children of God. God help the outcasts, Children of God”
What a beautiful embodiment of the love and devotion we should all have for one another. Notre Dame truly was a symbol of that selfless love – and it will continue to be, with the dedication of the French people to rebuild this marvelous structure. In the coming days, we will surely know more about what caused this tragedy. Rather than focusing on blame, I pray that we will focus on forgiveness and gratitude for those who worked to fight the flames. And rather than focusing on loss, I pray we may focus on what we still have – lives not loss, many relics saved, a structure representing beautiful France still standing, and the knowledge that regardless of if we have great buildings of art or small huts of straw, that God loves each of us and knows of all of our efforts as we strive everyday to become better and more like Him, loving our brothers and sisters.
In Mosiah 18: 9, we read that we are commanded to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Let us all reach out in love to Paris, France, and those of the Catholic faith during this time of their loss. I believe that though this trial is going to be hard for them, it will strengthen their already firm resolve to love as Christ loved and look out for those in need. As Valérie Pécresse has said, “The cathedral is still standing.” which means there is hope for Paris’ Notre Dame. One day, we will see Notre Dame rebuilt, but for today, let us focus on and give to others what it has long represented – selfless love.