A promise to rise from the ashes

Like many people around the world, the news of Monday’s fire at Notre Dame Cathedral stunned me. It was terrible to watch.

I’ll admit that it was never one of my “must see” places — I’m more inclined to want to tour Italy than any other European nation. But I have great respect and awe for such historical landmarks, and it was horrifying to see the fire overrun such a beloved structure.

The timing of the fire seems quite symbolic. It happened on one of the first days of Holy Week, the most solemn and important of weeks in the Catholic Church. It marks the events of the final days of Jesus’ time on Earth. While my son and his religious education classmates prepared for first communion this year, our focus on Holy Week was quite heavy.

As updates on Notre Dame poured in throughout the week, it made me think of the words Jesus was arrested for: “Destroy this temple and I will build it up in three days.” Of course, he was not speaking of a physical church but of himself. However, it seems to resonate with Monday’s blaze.

The fire nearly destroyed the cathedral — and the priceless relics and art within it. Thankfully, reports indicate the items were saved, and the French president has promised to rebuild it. Nearly a billion dollars of donations for restoration had already poured in as of Wednesday morning from around the world.

Even more thankfully, there were no fatalities to those attending Mass when the fire broke out nor of any of the firefighters and those working to save the relics and artwork. For a while, it looked like saving anything would take a miracle. Maybe it was.

I know things and buildings are not supposed to be important. It can be hard to lose track of that sometimes. But I also know sometimes items of great importance can help people feel closer to their spiritual side. From what I’ve seen and read over the past few days, Notre Dame and the items it houses provide that for many people.

Now that the shock of the fire has worn off, I find hope in the promise to restore the church. Completing it in five years, as the French president has asked, is probably a tall order, but it’s nice to know it will be there for future visitors to find spiritual inspiration.

As Easter approaches with the promise of renewal and rebirth, I can’t help but hope for the same for Notre Dame and the people of Paris and France.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's magazine editor, leading production of "Ottumwa Life," the award-winning "Business People" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.