I literally did not know how I was going to start this post or even how it would end. I have no words to fully encapsulate my reaction to Notre Dame burning because I’m still in a state of shock right now.
Reading about and seeing Notre Dame in flames lit its own fire inside me. My mind wandered, trying to find clear answers and meaning to the following: how to reconcile this with my Catholicism and it being Holy Week, what this actually means for the church, for Paris, and the world, and, probably the most profound of them all, that I would never see the real thing in all its history in person, something I’ve dreamed about for years.
For one, it struck me on the basis of religion. The thing is, I’m really not even that stringent of a Catholic. I believe in its overarching values, am confirmed, and still observe Lent, but I don’t attend church every Sunday, I haven’t received ashes on Ash Wednesday since I finished CCD, nor have I ever visited the Vatican. So why did it matter so much to me, on that level? I don’t think I have an answer.
And then I thought, “I’ll never get to see Notre Dame”. And that scared me. I’ve been dreaming about going to Europe for years, with this landmark being one of the top three things I wanted to see, and now who even knows if I’ll really be able to. Watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN narrate that footage freaked me out in a way I wasn’t prepared for, and it’s something I’m still processing at this very moment.
How do we move past this horrific moment not only in my church, but in our world? I really don’t know. I think oftentimes I ask myself questions, expecting there to be some answer I need to discover. But in this situation, I don’t know how to make sense of it. I really don’t.
What I think I do know, though, is that our religion is more than concrete, stone buildings. And from this musical theatre Catholic who has indeed performed in Godspell, I think that, out of all the ruins and inevitable rubble, smoke, and this night of struggle, we can see a ray of hope. Because even if Notre Dame does collapse and burn to nothing but ruin and rubble, it will always represent the beauty and grandeur of a religion I have a deep and personal appreciation for. We’ll remember it for inspiring a countless number of people to go see the world, a gorgeously rich book by one of my favorite writers, one of the most underrated Disney movies of all time, and for being a place where people of so many different faiths, even atheists, gathered and convened to take in its legacy.
I’m grateful for that, and for the moments where the world comes together, singing “Ave Maria” to celebrate and hope for the best for a landmark that’s given the world countless blessings.