Please don’t turn Notre-Dame into a post-Vatican II cathedral to the modern world

Like many parish churches built in the 1970s and ’80s, the Notre-Dame redesign seems to take its inspiration from sensibilities unique to our own decades, rather than drawing on time-tested understandings of God.

By Doug Girardot

It was a sunny Marathon Monday in Boston in 2019 when I got a notification on my phone that the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was on fire. I watched a live video feed as flames engulfed the lead-and-wood roof of the church. As Notre-Dame’s ornate spire collapsed, I felt a sadness that must have been similar to how people reacted as they watched the Twin Towers collapse in New York in 2001, even if for different reasons.

More than two years later, the teams working on Notre-Dame’s rehabilitation have come up with new plans for its interior. The proposed redesign hardly alters the cathedral’s existing structure, but it does envision a so-called discovery trail around the church to help visitors learn the story of the Bible, as well as spaces for meditation and digital projections of Bible verses in different languages. The tentative plans—shared by the London-based paper The Telegraph on Nov. 26—have caused an uproar among tradition-minded pundits. (The details are scheduled to be revealed publicly on Dec. 9, when the National Heritage and Architecture Commission will begin reviewing them.)

The proposed changes to Notre-Dame would not make the cathedral into a “theme park” or “woke Disneyland,” as certain commentators on both sides of the Atlantic would have indignant readers believe. The restoration designers—led by a Catholic priest, the Rev. Gille Drouin—are evidently striving to reach out to nonbelievers from around the world and to educate Christians about their own faith.

All the same, I do agree that the cathedral should stay as it was. Notre-Dame, in all of its Gothic magnificence, serves as a vital reminder of God’s grandeur. I understand where the cathedral’s redesigners are coming from, and I would not dismiss any modern innovation out of hand, but there are better avenues for them to pursue the work of evangelization they are trying to do.

Ultimately, the controversy over the proposed redesign of Notre-Dame reflects a debate about how we approach God. Do we see him as a philosophical wonder, a mystery, praiseworthy above all else? Or do we seek the more personal and active God we meet in Jesus?

Although Christianity is founded on belief in the Trinity, there are a number of dualities in our faith: Jesus was both human and divine; the contents of our faith are found in both Scripture and tradition; the Eucharist comes to us in the form of bread and wine. There is also a binary of how we conceptualize God: The Lord is the unfathomable and infinite creator of the universe, but he is also the poor man from Roman-occupied Palestine who showed mercy toward sinners and healed the sick as he wandered around Galilee.

In our time, the church has emphasized this pastoral view of God embodied in Jesus—and rightly so. In the centuries before the Second Vatican Council, the institutional church had gradually separated from the community of believers, leaving some with a more abstract understanding of their faith; for many, ritual and dogma were given pride of place over a personal relationship between themselves and God. The reforms of the council can be said to have renewed the church, reminding Christians that God is close to each of us in an intensely personal way.

The proposed changes run the risk of making a timeless monument to God’s majesty into something much more pedestrian.

Vatican II might seem worlds away from discussion of a 13th-century cathedral, but the way in which the council reframed our conception of how God relates to humankind speaks to the current controversy.

While I am sympathetic to the intentions of the team working to redesign the cathedral, I am skeptical that the proposed alterations will ultimately make a substantial difference in evangelizing people from around the world. The additions may push a handful of visitors each day to reconsider the Christian faith (or to consider it for the first time), but did the splendid architecture and reverent atmosphere of the cathedral before the fire fail in this regard? And isn’t the worldwide synod that the church is currently undergoing a better (and less expensive) tool to reach out to such groups on the margins of the church in a deeper way?

Unfortunately, like many parish churches built in the 1970s and ’80s, the Notre-Dame redesign seems to take its inspiration from sensibilities unique to our own decades, rather than drawing on time-tested understandings of God, which are as old as humanity itself. The proposed changes run the risk of making a timeless monument to God’s majesty into something much more pedestrian.

Because of our human imperfection and limitations, no cathedral can ever capture the myriad of facets of God’s divinity. But Notre-Dame in its pre-2019 iteration did a more than adequate job of expressing the transcendent nature of God, and that was enough. The cathedral’s soaring turrets, vaulted ceilings and pointed arches cause us to look up toward the heavens, spiritually no less than literally.

Like many other intellectual and aesthetic products of medieval times, Notre-Dame continues to remind Catholics of how small we are next to God in all his immensity, majesty and splendor. Just because we have opened our field of view to include the Son Incarnate does not mean that we should lose sight of the Father Almighty.

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Doug Girardot is an O’Hare Fellow at America. He graduated from Boston College in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

Source: Please don’t turn Notre-Dame into a post-Vatican II cathedral to the modern world | America Magazine

The cult of Gainsbourg to be consecrated with museum at his Paris home

Thirty years after his death, Serge Gainsbourg remains an icon in France. There are now plans to mark that anniversary with a dedicated museum at the singer-songwriter’s apartment in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood. His former Parisian home is already a place of pilgrimage for the many fans of the artist.

We also take a look at an Oscar-shortlisted French animated short which brings prehistory to life thanks to oil painting and grains of sand, and we find out more about the Chateau of Versailles’ new role as an exceptionally opulent recording studio.

And Paris Fashion Week pivots as designers embrace flexibility and creativity, showing their latest collections in pandemic-friendly ways.

Source: FRANCE 24

Illegal French New Year’s Eve party that drew 2,500 ends after 36 hours and a failed attempt to shut it down

Regional authorities set up a coronavirus testing site near the party location and urged all participants to quarantine for seven days.

Continue at WASHINGTON POST: Illegal French New Year’s Eve party that drew 2,500 ends after 36 hours and a failed attempt to shut it down – The Washington Post

WE are at war, yes!

By CharlElie COUTURE December 11, 2020

WE are at war, yes!

WE, the non essentials, WE, the useless, WE, the nothing, WE, the lights diving in the shadows, WE, the People of the Spirit and Culture,

WE, the restaurant owners, those of mouth pleasures and very short pleasure,

Yes, WE are at war,

WE, the show staff and technicians, theaters and cinemas, WE, the Actors and comedians put to forced arrest, WE, the Musicians, ALL of us who you consider to be sloths but only dream of working,

And all those of the night, this world that lives at night, that dark night that you associate with evil, that medieval fear that accompanies the night when the devil returns, that evil that grows when the sun has set,-now after 20 h -, this viral evil whose definition changes according to your moods, this invisible threat first defined as lethal, but whose danger is now considered in terms of ‘ case s’ (hence the suggestion to resort to massive tests to get impressive large numbers), with the intention of submitting an increasingly sceptical public opinion to be vaccinated as a matter of urgency, despite the ongoing pressure from the media, themselves under surveillance.

WE, whom you deal with an outrageous detachment,

Yes, WE are at war with YOU!

Against the Janus who repeats that he ′′ assumes “, he thinks he’s gifted with absolute super power of seduction, which allows him to spell and foolish all those he meets like a camelot, he the Little Prince so condescending to Screw of the People and the Middle Class,

Yes, yes. We are at war You

Against this orphéon of opportunistic subfives who improvise a cacophonic choir day-to-day, this ribambelle of cynical technocrats feigning to coldly ignore the drama that those concerned with these unexpected decisions,

YOU, whose lenifying and versatile speeches combine both ignorance and absurd,

Against YOU, whose inconsistencies flood us like acid rain on our forest of dreams,

Against your fake promises and announcement effects as a permanent bluff, claiming things one day, and the opposite the next day with the same Trumpist,

Against your inept fanfaronnades and your unannounced decisions,

Against your laws passed in Catimini,

We are at war yes!

Against billionaire mafias and other giants of Big Pharma,

Against your actual denial of climate threats to capricious consumption and pollution of unnecessary items distributed by the giant Amazon,

At war with an economy of cavalry and racing forward that ′′ invents ′′ virtual billions, and takes us in the short term towards the delusion of an unreal economy, like a dive into a bottomless well.

France is not serene, drowned in a kind of chaos and disgusting caused among others by overprotection of a repressive police and intestine disputes between illuminated specialists as unhealthy as street brawls between bands of alcoholic supporters.

France is not at peace with itself, when the same ones who denounced the laws of the caliphate imposing silence and veil, yes, the same have been banning in the same way for months both theatre, music, the museums, popular meetings (sporting or artistic), and then restaurants, happy and friendly party gatherings, and now Christmas with family and Silvestre…

Aware that the children in schools are learning to go crazy, yes, we are at war, a secret war, an internal war, yet still implosion, but the consequences will be serious.

We guess the rumbling anger and desperate people are ready to explode, ready to blow themselves up, suicidal.

A power so powerful is only by the people’s acceptance or refusal to obey.

From now on WE are at war yes,

To defend our right to continue living with dignity,

To defend our legitimate freedom and our right to think otherwise!

CharlElie Couture