Belong Blog

Belong 19:13  +  April 17, 2019 


TEXT: “Hope from ashes: Why the Notre Dame fire is a symbol of rebirth during Holy Week”

The [Notre Dame] cathedral, which has a history of more than 850 years, is perhaps one of the most important historical monuments for all of France, said Father Brien McCarthy, a Catholic priest who presides over L'église de la Madeleine, which stands several blocks northwest of the Île de la Cité.

With around 14 million tourists frequenting the cathedral each year, Father McCarthy described how he loves witnessing a change in people who visit it, even if they aren't religious.

"There is something about the brick and mortar stones, placed there by believing people, that can communicate to people. They know they are on holy ground, and it's not because the place is holy, but because it is made holy by the faith of the people there," he said.

The fire, which is believed to have been caused by ongoing construction to restore parts of the cathedral's roof, began shortly before 7 p.m. on Monday, April 15, in Paris. It was a sad and unfortunate event, said Father McCarthy, adding that if it had to happen, he couldn't imagine it happening at a better time.

The fire began on the Monday of Holy Week, a week in which Christians celebrate the life of the Savior, leading up to Easter Sunday and commemoration of His resurrection.

"If there is a moment when Christians should be ready to mourn the death of something, but to believe in the resurrection of something, it's Holy Week," Father McCarthy said.

"It is my belief that something is going to rise from these ashes," he said, noting that even the pagan myth of the phoenix and the ashes can bring hope after the day's events.

Describing the reactions of several priests from the area, he said, "We were all blown over by these events, but I know that it doesn't shake our faith. No matter how old or ancient your faith is, it can take a hit sometimes and we have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the same way, even when we see catastrophe in our own lives. In the end, it's just a building, but on the other hand, buildings become sacred by the people who assemble in them."

To view more images of the fire CLICK HERE.  To see drone footage of the damage CLICK HERE.


TEXT: “Holy Week & the Notre Dame Fire”

By M. Jean Duchesne

Seeing Notre Dame de Paris burning and threatening to collapse was a shock that left everyone voiceless – including President Emmanuel Macron, who canceled a speech dealing with the social unrest in France over the past few months.

The cathedral towering above the island on the Seine that was the cradle of the city is more than a venerable medieval building, more than an exceptionally beautiful architectural masterpiece. It has been for centuries the heart not only of Paris, but of the whole nation, the place where even atheistic presidents and ministers came to pray because they could not think of anything else to do when France was victorious (in 1918), defeated (in 1940) or liberated (in 1944). It was desecrated during the French Revolution and turned into a temple of the goddess Reason, but Napoleon realized he had to give it back to the Church and be crowned there if he was actually to become an Emperor.

It is also a vibrant reminder of the faith of our ancestors, which shaped the monument and inspired every detail as a facet of God’s revelation and gifts as well as the overall design. It was meant and has survived as a representation of the celestial abode that everyone openly hopes for or secretly dreams of. That something so ancient should defy time and remain so mysteriously meaningful is perceived as a miracle that no science can either deny or explain. This is why even non-believers feel affected. The Paris cathedral is the symbol not just of the Catholic faith, but of the fact that all humans have souls.

[T]his happens just at the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time of year for Christians: Where will the Archbishop gather his priests for Chrism Mass? And finally, why did God allow this?

Notre Dame on fire and perhaps unusable for months if not years is undoubtedly a trial. But faith does not allow to see this as a punishment or the confirmation of a decline and fall. There is some comfort to be found in the massive sense of affliction and solidarity of non-believers, since it proves that for them, however irreligious they are, the visible Church is not a mere remnant of the past, but a vital part of the scenery, without which they themselves miss something. Yet, in the end, this support does not make that much of a difference.

What is decisive is the knowledge that Jesus Christ the Groom will never abandon his bride the Church – which does not mean that her faithfulness will never be tested. The Temple on Mount Zion was destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again. St. Peter’s in Rome was plundered several times. The crusaders lost Jerusalem.  What ultimately matters is not the signifier (the cathedral), but the signified (God’s glory) which remains forever fertile and will forever inspire those who long for it.



TEXT: "Five Things to Know about the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris"


Catholics around the world watched with horror as the roof of Cathedrale Notre-Dame was engulfed with flames on Monday afternoon. The blaze began shortly after the church closed for visitors, and everyone was evacuated safely, though the entirety of the roof collapsed into the church.

Here are five things you may not know about the church that has often been called the “Queen of Cathedrals.”

  1. Building was an 182-year process. Rome was not built in a day, and neither was Notre-Dame. Construction of the cathedral began in 1160 and took nearly two centuries. While most work was done by 1260, it was finally completed in 1345.
  2. It’s home to many relics. The most famous relic located in Notre-Dame is the crown of thorns believed to have been placed upon Jesus Christ during his scourging. The cathedral also contains a piece of the true cross and one of the nails used in the crucifixion, plus relics of many French saints. Initial reports suggest that the relics were saved from the blaze.
  3. It’s not actually owned by the Archdiocese of Paris. Due to France’s laws regarding secularization, the French government owns all churches built before 1905, including Notre-Dame. The government lets the Archdiocese of Paris use the building for free, and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The Archdiocese of Paris is responsible for the upkeep of the church, as well as for paying employees.
  4. It is the most-visited site in Europe. With 12 to 13 million visitors annually, Cathedrale Notre-Dame has more visitors than anywhere else in Europe.
  5. It has been destroyed before. While Monday’s fire was certainly the most extensive damage ever done to Notre-Dame, this is hardly the first time she has undergone structural trauma. In WWII, nearly all of the glass was broken when Paris was bombed, and Huguenots destroyed icons and statues during the sixteenth century.

During the French Revolution, Notre-Dame was ransacked and re-dedicated to the “Goddess Reason.” The building itself was used at that time for wine storage. The Church resumed use of the building in 1801.


VIDEO: “Bishop Barron on the Cathedral of Notre Dame Fire”
To watch this 31 minute video CLICK HERE.


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Prayer for our parish’s catechumens & candidates this week:

God, we joyfully commend to Your protection and care all the Candidates and Catechumens who will be received into the Church this night. We pray that they may find a warm welcome in their new parish communities. We pray that they will continue to grow in the faith even as their formal RCIA training is ending. We pray that now that they have started on the path toward a deeper relationship with You, they will have support and help from their fellow Catholics whenever the way becomes rocky, exhausting, or if they become bewildered and lost.

May You enrich their prayer life, give them grace to become the loving servant of others, and guide them in the spiritual realities they will now face. May they continue to have the zeal they have at this moment for Your glory. May they use their unique talents to better the Church, and may You grant all the grace of perseverance to the end. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Altera septimana (Latin for “until next week”)! BELONG is a weekly informative news service highlighting matters of faith formation from our Catholic parish of St. John the Evangelist, and your Cathedral of the Diocese of Boise.

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