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A Message from God?

 

I am a Catholic Christian. I was raised in a Catholic home and went to Catholic school from Kindergarten through high school. In college, I became involved with evangelical and charismatic groups and eventually became an Episcopal priest. After a few years, I returned to the Catholic Church where I have remained the past 22 years and I have no plans to leave.

I write this in order to give the reader some idea of my theological beliefs (orthodox and conservative). I am not given to readily accept signs from God or prophecies–although I believe God does send them sometimes. For example, in the mid-1980s, when I was a young man, I was teaching at a Catholic high school in a well-known southern city. A friend who taught with me was from a mid-sized midwestern city–I’ll call it Peoria, though it wasn’t Peoria. His parents were aging and wanted him to return home and take over the family business. He was torn. He was a serious Catholic Christian and very much wanted to do whatever God wanted him to do. He prayed for God to give him wisdom; he needed to make a decision, but he wasn’t sure what course to take. One day he opened the newspaper and there was a full-page ad that read “Come Home to Peoria.” That was it. He was sure that was God’s message for him. That was more than 30 years ago, and it seems that it was indeed “what God wanted.”

I’m wondering if the burning down of Notre Dame in Paris is a message from God. I do not insist on it. Bad things happen in this vale of tears. Nothing lasts forever in this world. But I have an idea that there’s something more here. Notre Dame is a symbol of the West–the Catholic Faith, Western Civilization, the rule of Law, the dignity of human beings made in the image of God, the knowledge that we are flawed sinners who cannot save ourselves–“poor, banished children of Eve”–yet objects of God’s love and mercy and grace, who can experience redemption and live lives of love, purpose, meaning and sacrifice. When I watched the steeple fall I felt like weeping; I had a sense that it was symbolic of some greater fall–a collapse, almost an apocalypse.

In the late 1970s, I used to go to a meeting on Monday nights in Washington DC. It was called “Take and Give,” or TAG. There was glorious worship of God followed by some of the best Bible teaching I have ever heard. I remember one night the speaker saying “Folks, it’s madness!” referring to the deteriorating social situation in those days. There were indeed troubles 40 years ago, but who could have imagined the lunacy we face today? “Same-sex marriage” and transgenderism top the list perhaps, but the lemming-like march to socialism and the continuing breakdown in social discourse are perhaps equally alarming. It seems likely that what someone has recently dubbed “The War on Reality” will continue unabated.

Today I was reading the recent message from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. His account of the sexual revolution is horrifying, but it shows us how we got to where we are now. Also, over at First Things, there is an article by a writer named Jacob Williams–an English-born former Anglican–who tells why he became a Muslim. I suspect you’ve never read anything quite like this piece. I think he has made a big mistake becoming a Muslim, but he has tremendous insight into the emptiness of our dying culture. It is definitely worth reading and pondering.

Is the burning of Notre Dame a warning from God? I don’t know, and we have enough warnings of the consequences of rebellion against God’s ways in the Bible and in the writings of popes and saints and the great writers if we will only heed them. But it sure looks to me as if our society is coming apart. The burning of Notre Dame seems somehow to illustrate the catastrophe that is engulfing us.

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There are 32 comments.

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  1. Member

    I made a comment to similar effect on Claire Berlinski’s post on the main page.

    Whether or not we see the burning as a sign from God, we can use it as an opportunity to reflect on what is really important. For the original builders, the Cathedral was far, far less important than the Faith that inspired its construction. They would have been baffled by the notion of rebuilding a burned out Cathedral while lacking any belief in the Faith that is the whole reason for its being.

    The best thing that can be done is for the Cathedral to remain a burnt out hulk – that at least would do the original builders the honor of respecting their beliefs even if we don’t share them. For they surely would have urged us to set out about restoring the spiritual Body of Christ and to forget about the Cathedral – the remains being a visible sign of the state of the Faith. Let those long ago Christians still speak to us thru the ruins of their building.

    • #1
    • April 15, 2019 at 6:44 pm
    • 12 likes
  2. Member

    I think the same thing – and I think you are right – like @claire dad said – “this is a bad omen.” God does send warnings and guidance to his people, the ones that are paying attention get it. The Bible is full of God’s messages and warnings. This is Holy Week for Christians and Jews.

    • #2
    • April 15, 2019 at 6:47 pm
    • 6 likes
  3. Coolidge

    It is hard to think it is a coincidence that the greatest scandal in the Church in the last 500 years is accompanied by the conflagration of Notre Dame. This may be a warning that the Church needs to face the evil within its walls. Perhaps the destruction and rebuild of a cathedral will be a symbol of the purge and rebuild of the Church.

    • #3
    • April 15, 2019 at 6:48 pm
    • 9 likes
  4. Member

    I wish you were correct about God.

    • #4
    • April 15, 2019 at 6:48 pm
    • Like
  5. Member

    There is a story in Mrs R’s family about the time when their church switched from German to English. Her grandmother predicted that God would punish them for it, and the next day a tornado destroyed the church. (This was probably during WWI when the Governor of Iowa pushed the Wilson administration’s agenda of assimilation with unusual harshness, demanding that the Germans and Danes switch to English in their schools and churches. There was some pushback, after which he graciously conceded that he would allow individual churches to keep using their community languages if they could provide him with a good reason for it.)

    • #5
    • April 15, 2019 at 7:18 pm
    • 5 likes
  6. Coolidge
    Washington78 Post author

    Reticulator: Your Profile is priceless.

    • #6
    • April 15, 2019 at 7:27 pm
    • 4 likes
  7. Member

    It seems almost blasphemous to make this tawdry pop-culture reference on such a thread, but I made this connection before i learned of the burning of the cathedral and it might be the most insightful thing to come out of this particular show…

    I was watching the season premier of Game of Thrones this morning and I was struck by how the loss of knowledge in Westeros resulted in the destruction of their inheritance. All the passing on of knowledge was treated as children’s fairy tales, myths, and lies and so they paid scant attention to the details that would protect their civilization, even so much as passing their greatest fortress and feat of engineering to the keeping of the lowest of criminals.

    The parallels to Western Civilization and Christendom practically write themselves…

    I mourn for what we have lost… spiritually, culturally, and physically.

    • #7
    • April 15, 2019 at 7:40 pm
    • 8 likes
  8. Member

    Slightly off topic – I have fond memories of attending TAG in 1970.

    • #8
    • April 15, 2019 at 7:40 pm
    • 1 like
  9. Member

    We all interpret things according to our own lights. The Peoria story is great because there’s a person struggling to make a decision and lo and behold, comes a specific hint.

    I don’t see that here. What’s the message? Don’t hire careless workmen? Repent, the end is nigh?

    A message is only as good as the recipient’s ability to receive and understand. 

    • #9
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:14 pm
    • 3 likes
  10. Coolidge

    Well this may not be much comfort but an acquaintance of mine has been deeply sucked into the far leftist mentality, starting I’m not sure when but more openly in recent years. This is not a young socialist but a middle-aged professional who really seemed in emotional despair after Obama’s defeat, saying she was afraid “we’ve lost progressive government for another generation.”

    Naturally she was further distraught by the whole post-2016 press narrative, Mueller investigation, etc. and hasn’t attended any church for all the time I’ve known her, since the late 70’s anyway. Today she posted about the cathedral that “It seems like everything we have cherished is being destroyed.”

    Now, I know she means what Hillary meant when saying that “we are best when we are together” etc. in the liberal thought mode. So the liberal interpretation of what is being lost (cultural approbation using the cathedral as symbol) is unlike the premise of this topic. Maybe if such misled thinkers see a loss, that to a conservative is a sign of hope?

    • #10
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:28 pm
    • 5 likes
  11. Coolidge

    I have to come back and share this for perspective, and it is not small good news… to remind us that these works and hopefully restorations are not undertaken in any but very long time frames, in need of constant vigilance even when completed, and often cherished even as remnants.

    https://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/23/gaudi-sagrada-familia-church-basilica-final-construction-barcelona-spain/

    • #11
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:55 pm
    • 1 like
  12. Member

    Hilaire Belloc:

    In such a crux there remains the historical truth: that this our European structure, built upon the noble foundations of classical antiquity, was formed through, exists by, is consonant to, and will stand only in the mold of, the Catholic Church.

    Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish.

    Europe may perish but Christianity never will.

    G. K. Chesterton:

    Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.

    Pope St. John Paul II:

    Be not afraid.

    • #12
    • April 16, 2019 at 4:27 am
    • 11 likes
  13. Member

    Notre-Dame de Paris: A Supernatural Intervention of the Mother of God for France?

    • #13
    • April 16, 2019 at 4:41 am
    • 7 likes
  14. Member

    Perhaps a sign. I am neutral on it. Now, if they raise the cathedral and build a Mosque.

    Now that’s a sign !

    Not being funny. This event is tragic and heartbreaking.

    • #14
    • April 16, 2019 at 4:55 am
    • 2 likes
  15. Member

    God cares deeply about humanity. John 3:16. He must feel great distress in seeing his children being their own worst enemies and creating a huge mess of their lives using His gift of Free Will so wrongly. And so He sends signs. Many signs. Some big, some small. And there is no telling whether we recognize them or not. The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral is most certainly a sign. Here’s hoping enough of His children see it and change their ways.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYsBDmqJfjQ

    And perhaps … just perhaps … the sign is to better appreciate history, tradition, faith, Western Civilization and the things that have put the world in a place where even someone as blind and ignorant as Alexandra Ocasio Cortez can still succeed. But … to also realize in a 2×4 upside the head way, that we can’t allow the blind and ignorant to steal all of this goodness away. Maybe losing the Notre Dame cathedral could in fact spur a renewed effort to save the meaningful, essential and important things of life and civilization once again. After all … we don’t know what we got … till it’s gone ….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94bdMSCdw20

     

    • #15
    • April 16, 2019 at 8:10 am
    • 10 likes
  16. Moderator

    If it is a sign, then it’s not a good one. But I try to be very cautious about declaring what is or is not a sign of something else. Even if we’re right to declare that something is a sign, in our mad rush to seek symbolism we can very much stuff our own egos and desires into it, and thereby confirm own prophecies.

    Washington78:

    Today I was reading the recent message from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. His account of the sexual revolution is horrifying, but it shows us how we got to where we are now. Also, over at First Things, there is an article by a writer named Jacob Williams–an English born former Anglican–who tells why he became a Muslim. I suspect you’ve never read anything quite like this piece. I think he has made a big mistake becoming a Muslim, but he has tremendous insight on the emptiness of our dying culture. It is definitely worth reading and pondering.

     

    I have read the article, and Mr. Williams is not wrong to point out the hollowness of so much of modern faith. Yet his rejection of Christianity is itself terribly modern – even as he embraces Islam, he is doing so for the very reasons so many have otherwise abandoned faith. In short, he rejects the Incarnation. (For anyone who hasn’t seen the article, it’s here: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/05/why-i-became-muslim)

    His diagnosis of the sheer hostility of the modern world to Christianity, though, is spot-on. (emphasis mine)

    As for my generation, it had only the faintest notion of our once-great national religion. The Anglican Church had become a shadow of itself, reduced to the picturesque, empty buildings that adorned our lanes and streets. It was a shadow we noticed when we shuffled into the parish church’s cold, echoing interior for the Harvest Festival and sang the cheery modern hymns that church bureaucrats imagined we would like.

    Anomie was one thing; the ferocious renunciation of tradition I encountered at university was quite another. I had hoped that the spiritual emptiness of wider society was a result of ignorance, and that the ­academy—especially the ancient, venerable, Gothic academy of Oxford—had preserved what I vaguely imagined was my country’s noble heritage. Studying philosophy did provide some engagement with an intellectual inheritance, but for anyone moderately interested in public life, the campus movements for “social justice” were impossible to ignore. All of these—whether their goal was the liberation of women, of LGBT persons, or of ethnic minorities—seemed to have the same vision of man: a deracinated, protean aggregate of desires. These movements gained in strength every year. ­Formerly apolitical spaces were distorted by the need to appease one demand after another. The culture of the university, once imbued with the brash boyishness of the English public schools, now accommodated the sterile, strenuous inclusivity of progressive zealots.

    And here:

    But when I entered the chapels and listened to the ministers, the regeneration I sought didn’t happen. Christian voices sounded all too agreeable and compromising. I wanted something stronger, something that didn’t ­bargain with secularism. I found it in Islam.

    The universities attack, the clergy demurs and compromises, both mutually agreeing to the demise of their old country, and the gutting of its culture and character, all sacrificed on the altar of desire.

    • #16
    • April 16, 2019 at 9:40 am
    • 7 likes
  17. Member

    Great post, and great references to the articles by Pope Benedict and Jacob Williams. Here are links: Pope Benedict’s essay; Mr. Williams’ article Why I Became A Muslim.

    • #17
    • April 16, 2019 at 9:49 am
    • Like
  18. Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I have read the article, and Mr. Williams is not wrong to point out the hollowness of so much of modern faith. Yet his rejection of Christianity is itself terribly modern – even as he embraces Islam, he is doing so for the very reasons so many have otherwise abandoned faith. In short, he rejects the Incarnation. (For anyone who hasn’t seen the article, it’s here: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/05/why-i-became-muslim)

    I found the article too, before realizing you had provided a URL Much of what he says reminds me of why I don’t join the Islam-bashing around me, but your point about his rejection of Christianity being very modern might be right. I wondered as I read it, if his rejection of the Incarnation, as you put it, wasn’t a piece of deracination in itself.

    • #18
    • April 16, 2019 at 10:04 am
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    God bless this brave priest:

    An interesting fact (the trees, not that France is the home of civilization):

    • #19
    • April 16, 2019 at 10:15 am
    • 6 likes
  20. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    There is a story in Mrs R’s family about the time when their church switched from German to English. Her grandmother predicted that God would punish them for it, and the next day a tornado destroyed the church. (This was probably during WWI when the Governor of Iowa pushed the Wilson administration’s agenda of assimilation with unusual harshness, demanding that the Germans and Danes switch to English in their schools and churches. There was some pushback, after which he graciously conceded that he would allow individual churches to keep using their community languages if they could provide him with a good reason for it.)

    I checked with Mrs R today to make sure I had got the story right. She said that yes, it was during WWI, May 1918 to be exact. And it was indeed a tornado, one that lifted the whole church building off the ground and spun it around as it carried it up. Apparently there were eyewitnesses who weren’t cowering in their storm cellars as it happened. I don’t know if any of those eyewitnesses were people I ever knew, but all of them are gone now.

    Most of the German Lutherans who didn’t give up their German language services at the time of WWI did so during WWII, but I know of one church in Michigan that still conducted a German-language service each Sunday as late as 1980. When visiting relatives there we arrived to see a scene that reminded us of the 1950s — men in black suits and fedoras leaving the mid-morning German service. I don’t remember what the women were wearing. Attendance kept dwindling, and according to their web site they are now down to a single German-language service each month. I suspect attendance is sparse.

    A few years ago, thanks to inheriting my mother’s photo collection, I managed to get in touch with a vaguely-remembered playmate from when I was a little pre-school toddler. Most of her journal entries about it are from when I was too young to remember, but I did have one vague recollection that I then matched up with photos. My old playmate, now an internationally respected university professor and audiologist asked me via e-mail if my father had ever preached in German, because he knew from family stories that that was part of the history of their congregation. I couldn’t say for sure. He might have, but if so it was before I was old enough to remember. I remember that Dad used to tell a story about a young preacher who mixed up the German words for rain and manure, and it had recently dawned on me that Dad was maybe telling that story on himself. He sometimes did things like that.

    He used to tell about the days when the women and children sat on one side of the church and the men on the other, and it wasn’t until after he died four years ago that I learned that he had been talking about his own congregations in the years just after WWII. I now have two stories about how those customs changed in two of his congregations. In the one where I was baptized, it was due to a young navy veteran who got married into our extended family a few years after getting back from the Pacific war. He insisted on sitting together with his young wife (my grandfather’s much younger half-sister) and pretty soon all the married couples in the congregation were doing that. Although Dad used to talk about the old custom, I have no idea whether he encouraged or discouraged the new ways, or whether anyone predicted God’s punishment for the new ways. (My old playmate had a similar story from his congregation. In his case an older brother of his had started the new custom.)

    Last year we visited some of the churches in Germany where Mrs R’s family had come from. Some of them are basically museums now, and no longer hold services, but one where at least one of her grandparents had been baptized still conducts Sunday services and apparently even has young people in the congregation. We weren’t there on a Sunday, so didn’t join them for a worship service.

     

     

    • #20
    • April 16, 2019 at 10:48 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    An interesting fact (the trees, not that France is the home of civilization):

    Perhaps rebuilding with modern structural metals as rafters – while preserving the form – would be more to the point. The original builders of Notre Dame gave the best of their age, we could do the same. Let the oaks grow in peace.

    • #21
    • April 16, 2019 at 11:36 am
    • 2 likes
  22. Member

    It was carelessness, sabotage, or stupidity. All are always present in abundance and sometimes they accumulate where they shouldn’t.

    • #22
    • April 16, 2019 at 11:38 am
    • Like
  23. Member

    The thought that came to me this morning was that France had voted to allow ‘same-sex’ marriage – my goodness it was in 2013. As with others here I do not blame any one person, group, or decision by our body politic for G-d’s wrath. However since I am taking a class on the Old Testament right now, one sees how easy it is for people to turn away from G-d and from their natural selves and what a disaster that is. I’m glad that the damage is not as bad as it could have been. I am thankful for all the fire fighters and others who saved precious objects. And I hope a Mass has been celebrated/will be celebrated in the cathedral as soon as it is safe to do so. The greatest gift to the people who built and worshiped at Notre Dame de Paris all these years would be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Mary, I think, would want that most of all.

    • #23
    • April 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm
    • 3 likes
  24. Member

    From Anthony Esolen:

    A family not warmed by love might mourn all the more the loss of a place, because without the house, the half-home, they have so little else. A people who have forgotten or forsaken Christ might mourn all the more the loss of the cathedral, because they have in his place only the great Nothing of our world, a Nothing of creature comforts, easy sex, shallow entertainment, and the restlessness of acedia.

    The rest is at American Greatness: https://amgreatness.com/2019/04/15/the-world-sinks-to-ruin/

    • #24
    • April 16, 2019 at 5:28 pm
    • 2 likes
  25. Moderator

    I’m with the Babylon Bee, the internet’s finest news source satire site:

    PARIS—A new report issued by an investigative team working on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris confirmed that the blazing inferno that consumed part of the historic building yesterday means whatever you want it to.

    In the midst of a flurry of online commentary on the disaster, the world waited with bated breath for the investigation to confirm their opinions, theories, and hot takes on the fire. Finally, the world was relieved to find that the fire is definitely symbolic of whatever each person wants it to be symbolic of.

    “If you think this is a symbolic judgment on the Catholic Church, sure, fine. That’s what it means,” one investigator said. “If you think it represents the downfall of Western Civilization in Europe, then OK. Yeah, you go with that.”

    “You think this actually isn’t bad because other bad stuff has happened that is worse? You think it’s not OK for people to mourn the loss of the building? You want to use the fire to slam your political foes? Sure. Yup. You’re correct.”

    The report also indicated that it was either an accidental fire or definitely part of a coordinated attack by Muslims, cultists, Protestants, or aliens, whichever best confirms your preconceived ideas.

    • #25
    • April 16, 2019 at 5:35 pm
    • 5 likes
  26. Coolidge

    Washington78: When I watched the steeple fall I felt like weeping; I had a sense that it was symbolic of some greater fall–a collapse, almost an apocalypse.

    Sign, not a sign… I don’t really know. I absolutely believe in “signs” from God but like @SkipSul tend to be “very cautious about declaring what is or is not a sign of something else.” because “Even if we’re right to declare that something is a sign, in our mad rush to seek symbolism we can very much stuff our own egos and desires into it, and thereby confirm own prophecies.”

    I do have a hard time though understanding how any thoughtful could be watching in real time and not feel exactly as @Washington78 describes.

    • #26
    • April 17, 2019 at 5:40 am
    • Like
  27. Coolidge

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):

    Washington78: When I watched the steeple fall I felt like weeping; I had a sense that it was symbolic of some greater fall–a collapse, almost an apocalypse.

    Sign, not a sign… I don’t really know. I absolutely believe in “signs” from God but like @SkipSul tend to be “very cautious about declaring what is or is not a sign of something else.” because “Even if we’re right to declare that something is a sign, in our mad rush to seek symbolism we can very much stuff our own egos and desires into it, and thereby confirm own prophecies.”

    I do have a hard time though understanding how any thoughtful could be watching in real time and not feel exactly as @Washington78 describes.

    With that said, I was very happy that most relics and the main structure were saved. I’m optimistic what will rise from the ashes.

    • #27
    • April 17, 2019 at 5:46 am
    • Like
  28. Member

    Whatever caused this fire (and I think it was Islamists) it seems obvious to me we need the work of coming together to restore, or raise money to restore, this church more than we needed the building unharmed. Working together to restore it would be the reminder we’ve been needing that the battle is with powers and principalities. It might be in the restoration process that we, in some way, recover our memory of who we were and still are.

    And working together to bring it back would be the best way of honoring the memory of the generations of people who built it.

    • #28
    • April 17, 2019 at 7:56 am
    • 1 like
  29. Member

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Whatever caused this fire (and I think it was Islamists) it seems obvious to me we need the work of coming together to restore, or raise money to restore, this church more than we needed the building unharmed. Working together to restore it would be the reminder we’ve been needing that the battle is with powers and principalities. It might be in the restoration process that we, in some way, recover our memory of who we were and still are.

    There have been a lot of fires in the world that were not caused by Islamists.

    BTW, if you haven’t yet got your day off to a good start, try doing a Twitter search for “Notre Dame patriarchy.” Twitter throws in the word Patriarch for good measure, so you have to skip past those. 

    • #29
    • April 17, 2019 at 8:01 am
    • Like
  30. Member

    Re # 29

    I will Google that later today, even though I’m sure that what I read will make me angry and depressed. (I don’t say so out loud, but I’m absolutely for the restoration of a Christian kind of patriarchy.) 

    • #30
    • April 17, 2019 at 8:51 am
    • 1 like
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