Home International News Rebuilding Notre Dame important to ‘express a soul’s deepest longing’ — opinion

Rebuilding Notre Dame important to ‘express a soul’s deepest longing’ — opinion

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Notre Dame
A woman holds a candle next to an image of Mary and the Christ Child during a vigil near Notre Dame Cathedral April 16, 2019, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church's wooden structure. Officials were investigating the cause of the blaze, but suspected it was linked to renovation work that started in January. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

(Father Rich Jasper, associate pastor at St. Ann’s parish in Wilmington, offers reaction to questions about the wisdom of spending money to rebuild fire-stricken Notre Dame cathedral in Paris). 

I’m breaking my Lenten Facebook fast because I’m seeing/hearing a lot of this sort of response today, and feel a prayerful reply is warranted. You need not agree, and I mean that, but I’d like to at least offer another perspective:

Father Richard Jasper
Father Richard Jasper

Yes, raising a billion dollars in 24 hours to rebuild a church structure is both astounding and, at the same time, seems antithetical to Jesus’ call to love and serve the least among us. “Couldn’t that money be better spent in helping the poor,” we collectively ask?

No doubt it would help. But it won’t fix the real issues that cause poverty: the greed, the selfishness, the lack of true Christ-like love for our fellow sisters and brothers. Gospel living is about eradicating hardened hearts, and that will be what truly builds God’s Kingdom on Earth.

Furthermore, let us not forget that while Jesus Christ may not need rose windows made of stained glass, WE do. Our souls need places of beauty where minds and hearts find rest and comfort in a world that often wearies us. It is in places like Notre Dame Cathedral where those who suffer from poverty and injustice can experience a moment of transcendence and quiet certitude that God has not abandoned them … or any of us. Rich and poor alike are welcomed in that Church; very few other places can say the same.

Finally, quite frankly, I’m also somewhat put-off by the argument that the Church (Vatican) has all this money that could be spent on people, not buildings. That’s all well and good until one stops to recall that the Catholic Church feeds more people, educates more people, and provides social services for more people — regardless of race, creed, etc. — than any other institution in the world. And the Catholic Church has remained in places like Puerto Rico and Flint and the U.S. Border long after other agencies have packed up and gone. That’s truth.

Are we perfect as a Church? Obviously, the past years of horrific revelations of abuse show that we’re not. But Jesus Christ IS perfect, and it’s still His Church. Maybe if we started living like Him (and I include myself/clergy in this statement), then the poor would be fed, both physically as well as spiritually — through the sacred architecture and art that expresses a soul’s deepest longing.

So I humbly ask the doubters to reconsider: rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. But rebuild it not just because it’s the “heart of France,” but because it’s where the Heart of God is truly present in Word and Sacrament. And once we are fed at that Sacred Banquet Table, then we can really go and feed one another.

Blessed Triduum and Easter to you and your families. Stay and make our Church better. Our Lady of Paris, pray for us.

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