One minute, this. And the next, something else.
This world. This life.
I am thinking about the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France. I have been fortunate enough to visit that Cathedral. It is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been in my life.
I think I have knelt at every bank of candles in that place, made an offering, and lit a candle. I didn’t really offer up a prayer any of those times. I mostly knelt there for a few seconds, and said, in my head, “Just stopped by to say ‘hey’ if anyone happens to be listening. So. Hey.”
Of course no one audibly said “Hey” back. And I don’t intend to suggest a lack of reverence. In fact, the minute I laid eyes on that glorious Cathedral, I was overcome with a sense of omniscient-omnipotent-inspired-awe. When I walked through the door a windfall of presence overcame me.
Now, just a day after it catching on fire, millions and millions of dollars have been pledged to restore / rebuild the Cathedral. But I wonder about that fire — and what has been forever lost.
When I was in the eighth grade, I went to Our Lady of Mercy, as I have mentioned here before. It was customary, in the Spring, to do a thorough cleaning of the Convent. On a Saturday, the girls of the eighth grade class would be led in this charge, by the nuns themselves. I didn’t mind this at all. In fact, I found it fascinating. We were allowed to see things — like their personal rooms, where they slept, where they ate. Hell, we even got to see where they peed. I had to swab out a bunch of nun toilets in that Convent of theirs. But it took the better part of the day, and it was pretty hard work for a bunch of eighth grade girls.
That night, at home, I was sleeping soundly in my bed. And then, I began to hear sirens. Lots of sirens. It was the dead of night. After a couple of phone calls, my Dad confirmed that something up at Our Lady of Mercy was burning. They did not know if it was the church, or the school, or what. I remember standing in our kitchen, hearing all this, and panicking that it might be the Convent. I was overcome with worry that something one of us had done that day had somehow caused a fire.
My parents and I got in the car, and rode up to Mercy. We, along with a hundred other parishioners stood and watched as the Rectory burnt to the ground. My uncle, who worked for the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, walked over to us and confirmed that there was one dead. It turned out to be our head priest, Father Zimmer. The other priest, Father Schneider, was an old, old Marine. He tied his bedsheets together and scaled out of a second story window to escape. The housekeeper also got out.
Watching Notre Dame burning elicited the same feelings for me, for some reason. It felt devastating and incredibly sad. It felt very big. It seemed quite significant and other worldly.
We humans. We don’t know what we don’t know. But there are a lot of people in this world who hope and believe. There has been an ongoing effort, since the beginning of time, to connect our physical world, to the one (if any) on the other side of the ethereal curtain. Humans have sought to understand this connection to a God, or Spirit, or Being.
Sometimes the “happenings” of our human world seem to brush up against this, and make us take notice. We are tapped on the back of the head by the nun in the pew behind us, and as we glance back over our shoulders in response, she sits there with a furrowed brow pressing hard against the white crown of her habit. She points toward the altar. “Pay attention,” she mouths to us. And we shift back around in the pew, and face forward. And we look, trying to see what it is we are supposed to be noticing.
We clearly hear the silence all around us.
“God has no religion.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”
― Oscar Wilde
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Soren Kierkegaard