We have known that for over a generation now, Europeans, and most especially the French, have become more and more secular, and that the vast majority of Christian churches in Europe sit empty or nearly so on Sunday mornings. We also know that the Constitution of the European Union never once mentions Christianity. So why the outpouring…I think the cathedral represents the soul of Europe, the soul of the people corporately, but also individually, and it has been neglected for a generation or more.
Some were comparing this to the falling of the Twin Towers in New York some 18 years ago, except that the World Trade Centers involved a terrorist attack and the loss of much life, over 3000 souls. So, why the great outpouring then…over a building? It is an old building, nearly a museum, so one could miss the museum or the ancient building, but not with tears in one’s eyes. One Parisian resident spoke of how he had walked past the Cathedral every day for decades on his way to walk. How he had always felt the strength and the solidity and the eternality of this massive building as he walked by, but that he had never attended services there or ever been in it. But, now that it was gone, or nearly so, he felt a deep sadness and pain. Again, why is this?
Again, I think it is because of what it represents and I also believe that it touches a deep place in the soul of every European, and every Christian worldwide. This is their heritage, and it is a heritage that is based on Christianity and by extension Christ Himself…and it is a heritage that has nearly been lost. Notre Dame Cathedral is a deep and stirring reminder of that heritage. Jesus Himself said, on the night before He would die, while celebrating Holy Eucharist for the first time, “This do in REMEMBRANCE of me.” And as many of you have heard me say many times before, this word, “remembrance” is not just a memory but a re-enacting of the original event, as if it were happening all over again today. I believe that this is what has been tapped in the European soul. A deep longing for the remembrance of Christ and His Church. I pray that France and Europe will be awakened by this tragedy, and no longer take for granted that the Church will always be there for them.