Laura Workman '20, International Studies major at Covenant College, is studying abroad in Paris, France during the spring 2019 semester. Below are her reflections on the Notre Dame Cathedral burning.
"Notre Dame is on fire, it’s burning down, everyone said, and we felt our hearts send up the smoke signals.
My friends and I have been studying in France for three months now, hardly enough time to feel connected to the history or to the people, yet here we are offering hands and meager words and maybe a little hope that, hey, you’ll rebuild and keep the history alive, careful to not forget what once was. It’s the question of how to sit and to walk alongside a nation mourning a great symbol that we’re asking, and it’s not the first time we’ve asked it, nor will it be the last time if I had to guess.
Behold, I am coming to make all things new, he says, though what you’ve got right now is a hollow inside and a missing rooftop spire. It’s hard business.
Churches burn, people burn. What is it that makes the building so important to us? We aren’t talking about the racially-charged burning of the African American churches in Louisiana like we should be, only a fraction of what we saw for the Notre Dame. Why are those churches, which bore and still bear powerful messages of racial, religious, and political freedom for the black community, any less important? The house of God is there and is here, so let’s be cautious about letting the splendor of a cathedral stand in the way of the simple message.
I’m not criticizing the masses for mourning the Notre Dame of Paris, it’s important and necessary — the French people and members of the Catholic Church and all of us lovers of history, rich religious art, and architectural majesty, we are breaking together.
We weep as the body of Christ for what is lost, but we hope for what is to come. Not to make any unwarranted comparisons, but I’m writing this on Good Friday, the day it got dark, so dark we weren’t sure what would happen and how the Man of God would shine brilliant again. He did, dressed in the robe of the resurrection.
We watch life burn down around us, even the humble Notre Dame of Paris, even the historic and century-old churches in Louisiana, but we are given the tools to reconstruct and to flourish at the foot of the throne. The stained-glass windows of the churches all around brighten through this, given meaning only through the name of the Christ.
The redeeming power of the resurrection floods our bodies and our worship, letting grace run deep into those things burned by fire and by injustice. We grow new in this hope."