Sunday, May 26, 2013

Notre Dame de Paris Desecrated (Twice) in May, 2013

I was so stunned and sad to hear about the two demonstrations and desecrations of Notre Dame de Paris--a Cathedral I have visited, photographed, attended Mass in, prayed in, and been so impressed with for so many years. I remember the first time I crossed Pont au Double from the Left Bank, saw the towers and flying buttresses and wept for joy.

To hear that a man killed himself near the Altar and then that a half-naked woman pretended to commit suicide [WARNING: story includes photograph] to mock him the next day made me weep for sorrow.

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris is a tourist site, I know, but it is also an active sanctuary of worship, with Mass celebrated many times a day, the Sacrament of Confession offered to penitents (and an opportunity for counseling for non-Catholics), and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament behind the choir (with a sign proclaiming it is only for prayer)--Notre Dame de Paris is NOT the place for political protests. My husband and I have attended Sunday Mass there several times, at least twice on Trinity Sunday, thrilling at the history, enjoying the beatiful Gregorian chant (we usually attended Lauds and the Gregorian Mass), and wondering at the patience of the ushers, who had to shoo the tourists from the nave during Mass!

As Canon Lawyer Ed Peters on his blog, In the Light of the Law, reminds us:

Suicide—whatever mental/emotional problems induce some to commit it and which might even mitigate its culpability—is objectively a gravely evil action (CCC 2280-2283) and may never be licitly chosen. When committed in a sacred place such as a church or shrine, suicide effects the “violation” of that space and divine worship (as opposed to personal prayers) may not be offered there until the place is rehabilitated in accord with canon and liturgical law (1983 CIC 1211, olim 1917 CIC 1172; see also 1983 CIC 1376).

When Dominique Venner killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (indeed, it seems, within the sanctuary itself) he desecrated that great church. If it turns out that Venner killed himself in protest over France’s new “gay marriage” law, then, besides condemning the classical scandal his deed produced, one may further observe that all he really accomplished was to make opponents of “gay marriage” look like kooks, and to deprive, for a time, the faithful of France of a particularly powerful place of worship from which to ask God’s help in preserving the natural and holy institution of marriage in their nation.

Only the Evil One would take pleasure in that.

Our Lady, pray for us!

In reparation for these horrors of the week after Pentecost, here are some words by Blessed John Henry Newman on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity:

On this day, then, we should forget ourselves, and fix our thoughts upon God. Yet men are not willing to forget themselves; they do not like to become, as it were, nothing, and to have no work but faith. They like argument and proof better; they like to be convinced of a truth to their own satisfaction before they receive it, when, perhaps, such satisfaction is impossible. This happens in the sacred subject before us. The solemn mystery of the Trinity in Unity is contained in Scripture. We all know this; there is no doubt about it. Yet, though it be in Scripture, it does not follow that every one of us should be a fit judge whether and where it is in Scripture. It may be contained there fully, and yet we may be unable to see it fully, for various reasons. Now this is the great mistake which some persons fall into; they think, because the doctrine is maintained as being in Scripture by those who maintain it as true, that therefore they have a right to say that they will not believe it till it is proved to them from Scripture. It is nothing to them that the great multitude of good and holy men in all ages have held it. {329} They act like Thomas, who would not believe his brother Apostles that our Lord was risen, till he had as much proof as they, and who said, "Except I see and touch for myself, I will not believe." . . .

Let us, then, learn from this Festival to walk by faith; that is, not to ask jealously and coldly for strict arguments, but to follow generously what has fair evidence for it, even though it might have fuller or more systematic evidence. It is in this way that we all believe that there is a God. A subtle infidel might soon perplex any one of us. Of course he might. Our very state and warfare is one of faith. Let us aim at, let us reach after and (as it were) catch at the things of the next world. There is a voice within us, which assures us that there is something higher than earth. We cannot analyze, define, contemplate what it is that thus whispers to us. It has no shape or material form. There is that in our hearts which prompts us to religion, and which condemns and chastises sin. And {340} this yearning of our nature is met and sustained, it finds an object to rest upon, when it hears of the existence of an All-powerful, All-gracious Creator. It incites us to a noble faith in what we cannot see.

Let us exercise a similar faith, as regards the Mysteries of Revelation also. Here is the true use of Scripture in leading us to the truth. If we read it humbly and inquire teachably, we shall find; we shall have a deep impression on our minds that the doctrines of the Creed are there, though we may not be able to put our hands upon particular texts, and say how much of it is contained here and how much there. But, on the other hand, if we read in order to prove those doctrines, in a critical, argumentative way, then all traces of them will disappear from Scripture as if they were not there. They will fade away insensibly like hues at sunset, and we shall be left in darkness. We shall come to the conclusion that they are not in Scripture, and shall, perhaps, boldly call them unscriptural. Religious convictions cannot be forced; nor is Divine truth ours to summon at will. If we determine that we will find it out, we shall find nothing. Faith and humility are the only spells which conjure up the image of heavenly things into the letter of inspiration; and faith and humility consist, not in going about to prove, but in the outset confiding on the testimony of others. Thus afterwards on looking back, we shall find we have proved what we did not set out to prove. We cannot control our reasoning powers, nor exert them at our will or at any moment. It is so with other faculties of the mind also. Who can command his {341} memory? The more you try to recall what you have forgotten, the less is your chance of success. Leave thinking about it, and perhaps memory returns. And in like manner, the more you set yourself to argue and prove, in order to discover truth, the less likely you are to reason correctly and to infer profitably. You will be caught by sophisms, and think them splendid discoveries. Be sure, the highest reason is not to reason on system, or by rules of argument, but in a natural way; not with formal intent to draw out proofs, but trusting to God's blessing that you may gain a right impression from what you read. If your reasoning powers are weak, using argumentative forms will not make them stronger. They will enable you to dispute acutely and to hit objections, but not to discover truth. There is nothing creative, nothing progressive in exhibitions of argument. The utmost they do is to enable us to state well what we have already discovered by the tranquil exercise of our reason. Faith and obedience are the main things; believe and do, and pray to God for light, and you will reason well without knowing it.

Let us not then seek for signs and wonders; for clear, or strong, or compact, or original arguments; but let us believe; evidence will come after faith as its reward, better than before it as its groundwork. Faith soars aloft; it listens for the notes of heaven, the faint voices or echoes which scarcely reach the earth, and it thinks them worth all the louder sounds of cities or of schools of men. It is foolishness in the eyes of the world; but it is a foolishness of God wiser than the {342} world's wisdom. Let us embrace the sacred Mystery of the Trinity in Unity, which, as the Creed tells us, is the ground of the Catholic religion. Let us think it enough, let us think it far too great a privilege, for sinners such as we are, for a fallen people in a degenerate age, to inherit the faith once delivered to the Saints; let us accept it thankfully; let us guard it watchfully; let us transmit it faithfully to those who come after us.

Note: both pictures taken by Mark Mann.

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