Something about Notre Dame Cathedral overwhelms and fascinates the postmodern mind. Even in its present damaged state, the charred building commands the world’s attention. The cathedral’s authenticity prevailed over all attempts to disfigure it with a restoration of brutal modernistic redesigns.
When the spire and roof burned and collapsed on that fateful April 15, 2019, everyone was transfixed by the event. It was a day when the world wept, as something of France’s soul seemed lost. Outpourings of condolences and financial support arrived from around the world.
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Now, as the first oaks are selected for the rebuilding, the world looks on in awe. Media everywhere carried stories on the selection process and felling ceremony. This is no ordinary project; it touches the Catholic soul of France and the world.
The intense interest in the reconstruction process is a reminder of the Church’s tremendous power over souls. Despite the apocalyptical crisis of faith within the Church, things like Notre Dame speak to the shallow emptiness of today’s postmodernity. The poor metaphysical orphans of this lost century crave the beauty, depth and sublimity that only the Church can offer.
Unfortunately, “woke” Church officials waste this opportunity. They dither in ghastly social justice platitudes that attract no one. They refuse to see how attractive the Church is when faithful to herself and her tradition.
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The Notre Dame reconstruction illustrates this truth. Curiously, all the great idols have fallen before Notre Dame—as well they should.
Notre Dame defeated the Marxist lie that paints the Church as “the opium of the people.” The French people rallied to the medieval cathedral’s defense, insisting that it be rebuilt as it was. They rejected the modernistic designs and clamored for a Notre Dame “à l’identique.” Public authority had to bend to the overwhelming popular will and green-light the “backward” medieval design.
Notre Dame defeated militant secularism. The French Republic’s policy of laïcité has always shown official hostility to the Church. However, government officials dutifully appeared at the oak-selection ceremony held with great fanfare. These administrators, sadly not the bishops, understood the need to fill the occasion with symbolism, pomp and meaning.
Thus, contrary to the times’ materialistic spirit, this architectural project has become a metaphysical event. It has taken on a dimension beyond the builders’ physical and technical specifications. It appeals to a world full of symbols, principles and ideas that give meaning and context to things and connects humanity to God.
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Everyone sensed something historic and important was happening at the tree-selection ceremony in the forest. Perhaps it was not unlike the original selection of oaks held eight centuries before. . .
Frenchmen joined government representatives and forestry workers at the ceremony held among the towering French oaks standing for hundreds of years in the storied and once-royal Bercé Forest in the Loire region. The official “number one” tree was a 65-foot oak, meticulously chosen to play its role in this fabulous venture.
Thus, oaks from every region of France will be given a sacred destiny in the cherished cathedral. Half of the trees are from state land, and the rest from private donations. There is a holy competition among French regions to supply the needed trees. Everyone wants to contribute freely to the cause. Offers of free oaks have even come from other countries, as everyone is eager to be part of history.
Notre Dame also defeated the greens. Token objections were quickly overcome. Absent from the ceremony are the representatives of the ecological movement. The carbon-heavy restoration should be a natural target for earth-first fanatics, but they know the national mood is against them. A total of 1,000 giant oaks were painstakingly chosen and must be cut down during March, yet no eco-activist will be found chained to a tree.
The individually numbered trees are given their ordered use of serving God and man. They must measure more than a yard wide and sixty feet long. The harvest must be done quickly in March so that excessive sap and moisture will not harm the lumber. Once cut, the trees will be dried for 12 to 18 months before their appointed use.
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Notre Dame can overcome these obstacles because this is no mere restoration but a work of love and dedication. It represents the continuity of something special that the French want to endure far beyond their lifetimes. Indeed, the carpenters working on the project believe the oak roof will last at least eight to ten more centuries, far outperforming its steel or concrete competition.
“This is a project that concerns the whole of France,” said General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who directs the restoration effort. He correctly saw that this project touches the essence of France.
This conclusion is the only way to explain why Notre Dame has overturned so many modern idols. The project involves much more than a building or the expression of high culture and genius.
It relies on the Church’s powerful influence that, with God’s grace, elicits great enthusiasm. Deep down, the Notre Dame restoration represents the vital yet tenuous alliance that links France with Our Lady—to whom the consecrated building is dedicated.
The restoration is a lesson to all Catholics: Great things are possible when even the smallest link with Our Lady is maintained. Catholics and clergy need to believe in this power. It could change everything.
That is why the restoration must extend beyond the rebuilding of the church structures and win back hearts and minds to the Faith. France must rebuild Our Lady’s house and implore her to return as queen. When that happens, France’s future will be secured.
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