Last year while in discernment for the consecrated lay vocation within the Emmanuel Community, I had experience of living outside of Paris, France. During this year, I would visit Notre-Dame de Paris several times a month to pray. Notre-Dame and the Sacre-Coeur truly became homes for me, places of security, consolation, and rest when being so far away from home.
Seeing the live stream of the Cathedral being engulfed by flames, see the steeple come crashing down and the entire sanctuary and nave being scorched under a collapse roof, my heart is breaking. Our prayers go out to our French brothers and sisters for this horrific loss. Being in the Emmanuel Community, one tends to develop some sort of spiritual connection to the Church in France. The connection with the spiritual and cultural center of France — Notre Dame Cathedral — is particularly strong because of my experience last year.
As night falls, in Paris and the world looks on with tears and sadness, I wanted to share some of my own memories about Notre-Dame and how I will choose to remember her:
When the Community consecrated itself globally to the Blessed Mother on Dec. 8th, 2018, I joined the local Community around Paris at Notre-Dame. We were so numerous we filled the entire cathedral! My household arrived just at the right moment and we were able to be seated in the very front row of the nave. We were welcomed to gather around the alter in the sanctuary and to praise under the soaring vaulted roof and the rose windows, singing praise songs inspired by the Song of Songs…”Behold Him who comes, running swiftly to you.” During the actual moment of the Marian consecration, the front was was invited again into the sanctuary before the medieval statute of Our Lady, resting on top of the pillar. I was able to pray the consecration to Mary at the base of the pillar, in such a special place. In a difficult period of my life, I truly felt the tender and attentive love of God for me and the tender closeness of Blessed Mother.
Earlier that year when a brother and I found out that I was going to have to suddenly return to the USA because of visa problems, the first thing we did was to entrust all of this to the Blessed Mother before that same statue in Notre-Dame. To then be at the base of the same statue in Notre-Dame was a strong confirmation of God’s faithfulness and providence for us.
My mind also turns to countless tours I gave to American friends who visited throughout the year, hours spent at Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, adoring the Blessed Sacrament, and venerating the Crown of Thorns… I grew at home with her and came to know and be familiar with the different nooks and crannies of this spiritual home. In Notre-Dame, the grace of God worked deeply within my soul.
So many of us have similar memories of Notre-Dame, even if one having spent a short time there or dreamed of visiting her.
Nonetheless, it’s seems quite clear that, with tears in our eyes and prayers on our lips, all the Emmanuel Community, the Church, and the world is looking towards Paris tonight.
Notre-Dame de Paris,
prière pour nous.