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In thinking about Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, I will never forget the power that a beautiful house of worship can have on the human heart.

I saw several French cathedrals for the first time decades ago.

When taking tours of Notre-Dame cathedrals in Paris and Chartres, the respective guides told us that those majestic houses of worship were built for ‘the glory of God’.

Confession

A Catholic woman of my acquaintance visited Notre-Dame in Paris a few years ago for the first time. She had not been to confession in at least 20 years and suddenly felt compelled to confess her sins before a priest. She duly did so in the magnificent cathedral.

The priest held out a large crucifix and gently urged her to touch Christ’s wounds as she made her confession. She was moved to tears. She said it was one of the most meaningful religious experiences she’d ever had.

Conversion

Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the surroundings of Notre-Dame de Paris were so powerful that the French poet Paul Claudel converted to Christianity.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the day after the fire, The Daily Wire reported (emphases mine):

Not only did Notre Dame glorify God with its beauty, it also had the power to convert men’s hearts, according to the cardinal, as in the case of poet Paul Claudel.

“It is fitting to recall that it was in the same cathedral that the poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955) had a singular experience of the beauty of God, during the chanting of the Magnificat while attending Vespers on Christmas of 1886,” said Burke. “His singular experience on that Christmas night led to his conversion to the Catholic faith. It should not escape us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a most important and irreplaceable means of announcing God to a culture fraught with secularism and materialism.”

I could not agree more.

Contemplation

At the very least, most visitors to Notre-Dame enter a spirit of contemplation.

Everyone is quiet, and that, to me, seems in spite of rules about decorum.

I always wanted to sit there for an afternoon to meditate and pray after touring the cathedral. Unfortunately, because of busy schedules during my visits, I was never able to spend much time in contemplation and prayer. My friends were always waiting for me, the last one to leave.

House of God

Cardinal Burke had this to say about Notre-Dame’s beauty and the intention behind it:

“For Catholics, churches are not monuments but are the House of God, in which we really and truly encounter Heaven,” he said. “Because of God’s immeasurable and unceasing love of us in the Church, churches are also the House of the Church.”

That relationship with God, Burke notes, is what spurred our Medieval ancestors into erecting such a glorious monument. “For that reason, the faithful in the 12th Century employed only the most beautiful and enduring materials in constructing the Cathedral which was intended to last throughout the ages until the Coming of Our Lord at the end of time,” he said.

Why more people do not understand that is beyond me. That includes Christians, too, by the way.

Going into Notre-Dame de Paris or any of the other great cathedrals is as close as we can get in this transitory life to a glimpse of Heaven.

Let us pray that Notre-Dame is rebuilt and restored — respectfully and lovingly — to its original state for future generations.

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