The Fire of Notre Dame: Judgement or Healing?

By Jennifer Hartline Published on April 16, 2019

It’s hard not to see the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in the larger frame of the last year in the Catholic Church. As a Church, it seems we are going up in flames. It has felt that way for so many of us, and the pain of it is palpable. We are feeling it in our flesh, the way the people of Paris are now feeling the horrible ruin of their beloved cathedral. It is all of a piece, I think.

The fire in the Church seems to be of our own making. It is the result of negligence, grave sin, indifference, unbelief, betrayal, irreverence. In short, it is what comes of the absence of God, as Benedict XVI recently reminded us.

Things all around us are burning to the ground. Things we thought could never be shaken, things we believed somehow impenetrable by such commonplace enemies as worldliness and indulgence. All these things are collapsing. People we rightly expected to be not conformed to this world have been exposed as being the world’s collaborators.

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The flames are rising. The image of Notre Dame on fire yesterday became, for me, the perfect symbol of the last year and all the scandal sullying the Catholic Church.

And I say, let it burn. No, not the glorious cathedral. The corruption, the scandal, the false church that has been standing beside, even in front of, the authentic Church for so long now. Let the wicked dross be consumed by fire. Let the falsehood and unbelief and greed and perversion be reduced to ashes by a holy and cleansing fire.

First the fire. Let it rage until the work is done. We need to endure the pain of it, and sit with the knowledge of the depth of the sin and betrayal and finally see how thoroughly we have abandoned God. Then may those ashes be heaped upon our heads in repentance and tears.

Then, we can rise up in renewed faith and begin the rebuilding. This fire in the Church will be a purifying one, by the grace of God. Even now, we are not abandoned without hope. We have been faithless, but God is faithful.

The gates of hell will not prevail. In a few days, after we have walked the Via Dolorosa with the Lamb of God, offered in sacrifice for our sakes, we will marvel at the empty tomb.

In the meantime, we can and should weep with the people of Paris over Our Lady, Notre Dame de Cathedral.


You can follow Jennifer at @jenniehartline. And you can follow The Stream at @streamdotorg

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