The shocking news came on Holy Monday: Notre Dame de Paris was burning. In spite of a wave of attacks to Catholic Churches all over Europe, the French authorities quickly concluded that the fire was the result of an accident. No one revealed who was working on the spot where the fire began, or any other information related to how the fire started.
Only hours after the disaster, President Macron announced that the French government has plans to rebuild Notre Dame in only five years —yes, five years— something that is clearly impossible if Notre Dame is to be restored to the condition it was the Sunday before the fire. Rumors began to circulate that the “rebuilding” will also include remaking the venerable edifice into a community center of sorts, perhaps a church/mosque, a building with a dual purpose such as the Catholic Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain that is used alternatively as a mosque. The horrors do not cease and get worse and worse.
Some say we are living in the Post-Modern age. I beg to disagree. Modernism is not gone but it is reaching its climax. We are living the apotheosis of Modernism. The system that rules the entire world now is a clunky generator of ugliness, degeneration, and despair with only occasional touches of beauty to keep the slaves entertained.
A Christian writer wrote in 1945: “Perhaps I am asking impossibilities. Perhaps, in the nature of things, analytical understanding must always be a basilisk, which kills what it sees and only sees by killing. But if the scientists themselves cannot arrest this process before it reaches the common Reason and kills that too, then someone else must arrest it.” (C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.) Back then, Lewis and others still had hopes that the destruction unleashed upon the West by Modernism could be stopped. Yet, Lewis’ Anglican convictions were as much a product of Modernism as the more obvious atrocities he deplored in the post-war years. He is not an exception; we are all affected by the Modernist nightmare. We are all living in the same mud pit, up to our eyebrows in dirt. Who dares to say, “Here’s mud in your eye”? You may have guessed that the origin of that old phrase is biblical. Jesus spat in the dirt and rubbed the mud on the eyes of a man born blind to restore his eyesight. That holy mud was a cure but the Modernist mud invading everything these days, is a mortal disease infecting us all. There is no vaccine; there is no human science that could stop the spread of this madness. Yet, God can restore all things.
Donoso Cortés, the great 19th century Catholic who saw where the world was going, predicted prophetically that the venerable Liberalism of his age would inevitable careen into Socialism, then Communism, to finally end in widespread anarchy. Thus the times we are living in are a sort of Genesis 1:1 in reverse: chaos descends on the world while an unclean spirit flutters over the man-made abyss. Instead of the Garden of Eden, men have managed to create a garbage heap of worldwide proportions.
The French Revolutionaries desecrated Notre Dame. The Notre Dame we knew was a limited restoration of the medieval original. The spire that burned and collapsed on Holy Monday was not original to the building; it was a 19th century addition. We must remember that the French Republic stole the building from the Catholic Church, and was the first one to nearly destroy it and desecrate it. The government of President Macron is nothing but the newest incarnation of the First Republic. The current Fifth Republic was established by Charles de Gaulle on October 4, 1958, coincidentally on the day of St. Francis, whose name means “little Frenchman” — those coincidences never cease to amaze me: St. Francis began his earthly mission after hearing Jesus say: “Francis, rebuild my Church!” The divine order was misunderstood by Francis as a command to rebuild the “Portiuncula” (“little portion”) a small country church fallen in disrepair. That church is located in the Diocese of St. Mary of the Angels, in Assisi, Italy. The saint’s own misunderstanding became a sort of model or parable for the repair of the Catholic Church of that time.
In 1226 A.D., at the time Francis went to his eternal reward, Notre Dame de Paris was about to be completed after two or three centuries of construction. Two-hundred years before in 1054 A.D., the bishops of Rome and Constantinople exchanged excommunications and the Church was divided. Back then, Africa was already lost to Islam and so was most of the Middle East and Asia. When the Churches of the Orient left the communion with the West, the Roman Church was gradually exposed to more and more internal corruption and external attacks. Those were, in my opinion, the times when the seeds of Modernism were sown. Five centuries later, the German Reformation dealt an even bigger blow, dividing European Christians in myriads of sects. The egg of the serpent hatched in time for the beginning of the Modern Age.
So, the damage done to Notre Dame is terrible but it is small potatoes compared to the brutal blows the Church has endured in the last thousand years. The pitiful, pedantic promise of Monsieur Macron to rebuild that magnificent building in five years seems to me like a pathetic cheap copy of St. Francis’ mission. Who knows what ugly results that pompous presidential resolution will bring!
Modernism knows how to “deconstruct” —a modern euphemism for what we know as “destruction”— and it surely knows how to make everything ugly. The Modernists are masters of building on shifting sand. The invincible Christian spirit built the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages. It was the Christians who turned the remains of the Roman Empire into Christendom. What the Modernists have done is to turn Christendom into a barbaric global empire that crushes the human soul.
This destructive fire has centered the world’s attention in one of the great marvels of the Christian world of long ago. To me, it is a reminder of a glorious time when the Church extended its wings from the confines of Russia all the way to Ireland. In those days, the Cathedrals were really Catholic. The buildings housed the Sacraments available to Christians all over the world. Those were built not by a construction company or some talented architect but truly by generations of faithful workers spanning several centuries. The work was truly Catholic extending both in space and time.
The time is coming, a third millennium, when we will have to rebuild that holy realm by the grace of God. Many men and women like St. Francis will rise and work with God in lifting the Church to new heights. The whole Earth is drenched generously with the blood of holy martyrs. That is a sure sign that the Church will grow again after these trials.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14, NIV)
Good Lord Jesus, please give us the strength to restore thy Church!