Reflections on Notre Dame Ablaze: Behold Your Mother


O Lord, we are so easily deceived still into expecting from you a kingdom governed according to the laws of this world. Keep our eyes fixed on the triumph of the cross, so that we may grow into a deeper understanding of the power of your law of love over the laws of human expectation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer from the end of Morning Prayer for Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019 in Magnificat magazine speaks to me of God’s first century followers and their inability to recognize the Messiah in Jesus. But, oh, it also speaks to me, to what my heart goes through during this Church crisis, and even when reading about the sins of the Church’s people through history. It speaks to me of my own sins and false expectations. However, it came foremost to mind the next day, the Monday of Holy Week, speaking to me about our visceral reaction to the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Though we know all things of this world are passing, somehow, we expected Notre Dame to stand, unchanged, in the heart of Paris forever. We forget that this building has more in common with a sand castle in eternity’s eye view. The Jews expected a Messiah to lead the charge against the Romans and set up a new and glorious kingdom on earth. We expect our twenty-first century world to continue in some sort of glorious material progress, as we preserve the best of the past and build new monuments to our own genius for the future.

This fire is in part a harsh detachment from these expectations, a call to accept change when it inevitably comes and to hold loosely all that is not eternal. We are to remember that our churches, our homes, our health, and our comfortable American way of life is not guaranteed. We are to remember that even our children, our spouses and our dearest friends are on loan to us from God. Ultimately, we are to remember that the Cross is our true expectation, and, yes, the Crown, too. But never the latter before the former.

This fire offers abundant lessons to be salvaged from the rubble, including from what has been left standing: the foundation and twin towers. St. John Bosco had a vision of the Church as a ship, the Barque of Peter, in a great storm, the Pope at the helm guiding Her through the twin towers of our Blessed Mother and the Eucharist. Like a great ship in the River Seine, Notre Dame has been deeply broken, taken on water, but still stands, twin towers of her own intact.

After the spontaneous prayers of Parisians on the streets and the work of the brave firefighters, priests and others who rushed to aid their mother, the fire was miraculously contained and the damage is not nearly as bad as was feared. Signal graces were given to all in what was saved during Holy Week: the Rose Windows, the Crown of Thorns, a sainted French king’s tunic, and breathtakingly, a glowing cross set behind a pietà sculpture. The Blessed Mother fairly shouts, if such a thing were possible of such a gentle mother, “Behold!”

It is almost as if the Blessed Mother set herself on fire to get her children’s attention. It is certain that God allowed this, and the people of France, steeped in the intellectualism of the Enlightenment for centuries now, fell to their knees in prayers and singing, weeping for and with their Mother. The eldest prodigal daughter of the Church had a blessed moment of true recollection. Perhaps most have already rationalized away their experience of that night of smoke and flames, prayer and song as purely humanistic emotions tied to a beloved landmark and the memories of pious parents or grandparents. But the truth is a tiny ember in their hearts, and if they do not quench it, it will grow as the Blessed Mother and Jesus speak to them in many and various ways, suited perfectly to the needs of each. This Mother loves us so. She mourns our straying, our prodigal ways.

“Behold, Your Mother”

Outside of Jesus himself, no greater gift has been given, nor will we ever receive in heaven or on earth, than our Blessed Mother. We are called to love her, appreciate her, honor her, talk to her and run to her with our troubles. She wants to teach us her ways, which are Jesus’ ways. She is always a good and gentle teacher. She will teach us how to be a good and gentle teacher to those around us, too.

Jesus gives her to us, not to put something between Himself and us, but to help us to draw near, especially when we are in pain, especially the pain caused by our own sin. In our embarrassment, hurt pride and disbelief in our own lack of virtue and continuing selfishness despite all of the graces we’ve been given, we will fear less to come to such a gentle mother. Mary will soothe our hearts, smooth out our fears, show us our errors and reassure us of her continued love, and of Jesus’. With our focus taken off of ourselves and placed back on Jesus and His mercy and love for us, and with renewed confidence in that mercy and love, we can return to Jesus with true contrition. He will forgive, heal and set us back on the right course.

This unmatched gift and grace of the Blessed Mother is always available to us, night and day, in busyness or at times of prayer and reflection. Pray for the grace to make good use of such a gift, to love well such a mother. By using this gift, we allow her to teach and train us to be like Mary for others: to be a bridge to Jesus, like the bridge over the Seine that leads to His church named for her. His mercy waits and trembles to overflowing in His cup. He desires to pour it out on poor sinners like us and the lost around us. He thirsts. The more we come to our mother and become like her, the more souls will also find Jesus through us, members of a vast army of little mothers, little fathers, little souls lighting the way to Christ.

Will we rebuild like before? Impossible. Two hundred years of careful, pious craftsmanship cannot be replicated within a twenty-first century time frame. But that is alright. I hope that a new church is born on that age-old foundation, one open to the transforming and changing light of day, to God’s every movement in the heavens. Perhaps simpler and mindful of the transience of all things earthly, but still giving the utmost glory to God, all honor due to our Blessed Mother, and to all saints who came before us and upon whose shoulders we now stand in faith. Most importantly, I hope that it will become again a place that draws us to our Blessed Mother, to be reconciled with her Son.

May the mercy and grace of old flow down the Seine around the little island that holds up Our Lady, in new and miraculous ways suited by God for times such as these. May the people of Paris, of France and of the world, stream back to Christ through the grace of a Mother whose love for them is a burning fire in her heart.

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6 thoughts on “Reflections on Notre Dame Ablaze: Behold Your Mother”

  1. Mary Pesarchick

    “It is almost as if the Blessed Mother set herself on fire to get her children’s attention.” What a sobering thought! It is shameful that we have become so complacent with the evils in the world that we would need such a wake-up call. How sad to think of depths of the Blessed Mother’s sorrow and concern for us and yet how unmoved we are until something like this happens. Too caught up in “material progress” and “building monuments to our own genius”(love that phrase!) to realize how close we are to losing everything that waits for us in Eternity.
    But your words beautifully remind us of the hope we have in the Blessed Mother, Suellen. “Can a Mother forget her child?” She is going to fight with everything she has to bring us to Jesus, no matter what it takes, even fire.
    Thank you so much for sharing your insight and inspiration, Suellen!

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  3. The Fiery Rooster, ‘les SDF’ from the Parisien street

    In Paris, a spontaneous religious procession with the singing of songs and litanies passed in the evening of April 16, 2019 from Saint Sulpice to the square in front of the Notre-Dame cathedral, no longer roofed and probably inaccessible to the faithful for a long time. The distance is insignificant (1500 m), but the significance of this act of piety is great: the faithful showed that it is one and the same Fire. If someone read my earlier text about the fire of Saint Sulpice, he already knows that this Fire refers to the Paraclete. God speaks to His children constantly, also with their free deeds. Why do I say that participants in the procession ha­ve combined two fires into one Fire? The first fire, at Saint Sulpice, broke out on March 17 on Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, which is a commemoration of the return to the worship of Holy Icons in Byzantium, which was proclaimed by Empress Theodora on the first Sunday of Lent AD843. The sacredness of this empress, however, is celebrated on 11 February, and the heart of a Roman Catholic is happier at that date: the Immaculate Conception Herself chose this day for Her first apparition at the foot of Pyrenees in 1858. The Madonna invariably appeared to the poor Bernadette in the porphyry grotto at Lourdes, to announce the birth of the porphyrogenet – the emperor, or the king of kings, and therefore the sovereign Queen of Heaven and Earth was assisted by the Roman empress Theodora, or the empress of the ‘Divine Gift’, in French ‘Dieudonne’. The French monarchy knows one ‘Dieudonne’ … yes, this is the nickname of Louis XIV, the Sun King. And so we have already entered the trail of not some fire, but of the sun. Saint Bernadette, with her whole person, illustrated the actions of the Immaculate Virgin in front of faihtful bystanders’: she smeared her face in the mud of this pig’s den under the Massabielle rock, and ate the herb to show that she was accompanying a prodigal son – admittedly the ruler of all the inhabited earth, but who lost his mind because of pride – she became like this pig Nebuchadnezzar; the flame of the candle engulfed the girl’s hand without burning the skin, because it’s all about the Fire, who is a person, not an element; wade in Gave de Pau, because its waters are like ‘aqua natalis’: after all the city of Pau (in the course of this river below Lourdes) is the birthplace of the great convert, the first Bourbon on the throne of France, Henry IV the King! And so you could quote various details until the final apparition of July 16th (1858): the grotto was then barricaded by the police (= no access to the Church, as now Notre Dame de Paris), but Bernadette nevertheless saw the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and She was more beautiful than ever before … because in Her imagination She sees this craved Gardener of Her garden, that Son-Man, whom She gives birth as the Holy Church Our Mother, Her chosen Spouse, the Great Monarch, God’s gift for the last days – ‘Dieudonne’ par excellence.
    Romanian Sabina waited for her beloved spouse, Saint Alexis, 34 years and she saw him only on catafalque, and the Virgin Mary almost 2000 years, or … 2 days (because a thousand years with God is like one day) and She will receive him alive – He has so much to do here on earth.
    The procession of Parisians celebrated Saint Bernadette on the anniversary of her 140th birthday for Heaven (on April 16, 1879), when the Fire came down from above into the Church and revealed the starry sky over She. So we have a French woman who reminded us of the meaning of the Lourdes’ apparitions, but she is accompanied by a Frenchman … Saint Benedict Joseph Labre. What would this God’s Fool say to us, this complete madman, who consumed his young life as a vagrant in Europe, or rather on a pilgrimage around the Marian sanctuaries. This Saint Beggar has spent the last 5 years in the ruins of the Roman Coliseum, until one day he fainted on the threshold of Santa Maria ai Monti and soon died, on Holy Wednesday, April 16, 1783, as befits the Gallic Rooster in the butcher’s cell. He consciously lived on the style of Saint Alexis and, like him, he went to Heaven via Rome, and now he is – attention, attention – the patron of SDF (in French: ‘sans domicille fixe’) or homeless.
    This Roman Rooster found himself on Holy Tuesday, April 16 (2019) on the Paris street near the cathedral: because of the great fire he flew from the Notre-Dame spire on the eve of the annual memory of his namesake Benedict Joseph. This Holy SDF found himself, which is also played by the voice of ‘Benedict-Joseph’ bell on the tower of the Notre Dame cathedral. There is an inscription on it “and dwelt among us”, and he repeats the ‘Etienne’/’Stephan’ bell with inscription: “and the Word was made flesh.” Stephan means ‘Wreath’ or simply ‘Crown’, and ‘Benedict-Joseph (Labre)’ – ‘Blessed God will Multiply (Good)’ (probable etymology of the surname Labre = Good), I do not have to add that it is about the Great Monarch of the end times. Should it be some SDF?!
    So, from Saint Sulpice, Saint Alexius (SDF), Theodora the Empress of March 17, we went with Saints Benedict-Joseph (SDF) and Saint Bernadette on April 16, and through her to Notre Dame the Empress of Heaven in Her splendid palace on the Cite island. Where, however, is the fire on the spire and roof on April 15th night till morning 16th? How did this happen?
    First, the construction brothers (masons) founded a steel cage on Notre Dame built on the plan of the Cross. Then they removed 12 Apostles and four Evangelists from the spire. They did it on April 11 (when Mercury reached the largest western elongation), on commeration of Saint Stanislaus Bishop Martyr, patron of the Polish Crown, and Saint Gemma Galgani – a real jewel in the Crown of the King of the Kings of Jesus Christ. [What connects Stanislaus from Cracow and Gemma from Lucca: their native colors – a white and red flag.] By removing 12 Apostles, they took out the foundation of the Church symbolized by the Cross crowning the spire of Notre Dame de Paris. There was also Rooster sitting on this Cross, an ancestral bird of the Gauls. In addition to the 12 Apostles, the builders also removed the allegories of the four Evangelists. Here, however they – unfortunately to those Masons, and luckily to Gaul – did not notice something: they took 16 figures, and yet 2 Evangelists are also Apostles. In fact, 14 persons were taken of and the figures were 16. The bill does not match. Two men of this group had to remain. Who two? Those who performed in a double role: Matthew and John became like ghost at the base of the spire, the Cross and the Rooster. The names of Matthew and John are translated as ‘God’s Gift’ and ‘God’s Grace’. What’s more, they are symbolized by Angel and Eagle, and therefore winged beings. Can a heavily-flying Rooster of the Gauls complain about the help that God gives him in His Providence, shortly before that conflagration! Get the wings of the Angel and the Great Eagle to break free from deadly oppression and land safely in the green? Do you need something more? The Rooster landed safely in the green bringing the relics of the Thorn from the Crown of the Savior (Who suffered this for the sins of our mind), Saint Dionysius (and he brings the Church’ Head, because the head of every bishop is Vicar of Jesus Christ) and Saint Genevieve the Parisian, who arranged a nice flat for the First Bishop of Paris.
    Who caused the fire? Another SDF again? Whoever it would be, whether he did it deliberately or unintentionally, whether a Frenchman, foreigner, freemason or a professional, is definitely some SDF, because each of us, mortals, belongs to the category ‘sans domicille fixe’. We do not have a permanent place here on earth – we are waiting for death, judgement, Heaven or hell. Only after death we gain the status of a permanent, eternal resident of Heaven, or, unfortunately, hell.
    The fire flared at the base of the spire around 6:50 in the afternoon. And so the spire turned into a burning torch, an inverted torch: its handle (grip) was the Cross that held the Rooster. Because the bonfire formed at the intersection of the transept and the main nave, so the fire came out of the Cross and simultaneously entered the Church from above. The roof was an obstacle, it must have burned away so that the Fire from Heaven could enter the interior of the Church. For what? There has been darkness in the Catholic Church for centuries, so in order to make it again the Light of the world, the Almighty God sends a fire to the Church, called ‘God’s Gift of God’s Grace’, for these two Apostles and Evangelists, Matthew and John, have been on duty at the torch’s head. The whole Church (digression: I still use physical images in this analysis, so if someone would like to facilitate the reception of this text, let them start with reading to the mind as many photos from the scene as possible or displaying them on a regular basis), so …
    When the spire collapsed, the Fire was thrown on this earthly Church and the whole Church – looking from the bird’s eye – was marked by the sign of the Fiery Cross. France froze at that sight and cried, because it was as if their ancestral bird, Rooster, and with him all Gallia was to go past the flames. This is the Fire that our Lord Jesus Christ said about: “I have come to throw fire on the earth, and how I long for it to burn.” This Fire is ‘God’s Gift’ or ‘Dieudonne’. Louis XIV? No. It is the Sun King, the Great Monarch of the end times, the same as the Paraclete. This Fire burns with Notre Dame together. It can not be otherwise, after all it is Her Son-Man, through whom She suffered so much in the pains of childbearing, as Sancta Ecclesia Mater Nostra. But finally She gave birth to Him – Her Spouse! Has become. He is already inside the Church on earth. The masons missed the case: they were trying to close Notre Dame in a steel cage, and here, through this very trap (oh, happy fault), the Fire-Paraclete entered the belligerent Church on earth. It was necessary to pierce the vault of the temple so that the Fire could enter the interior. He landed at the edge of the presbytery. And there in the dark interior you could see Notre Dame with the Body of Jesus Christ already taken off the Cross and absorbed in perpetual adoration Her eldest son, King Louis ‘the Just’ XIII in the act of offering Her Crown of France, and also his son, Louis XIV ‘the Sun King’ renewing his father’s famous vow. Nice perspective, but these ruins, smudged logs, ashes, rubble, water finally. Was it necessary? And was the fire from Heaven needed by Sodom? Was there any significant trace left of this city? Now, when the Vatican has turned into a new Sodom, how can it avoid the Fire? A bit of a ruin, standing walls – the Church will survive, unlike the infamous pentapolis in Palestine. That’s why John (the Evangelist) was involved in this Parisian case, with the nickname ‘the Son of Thunder’ given to him by the Savior himself. The Gospel [Luke 9:54] testifies that this Son of Thunder can use God’s given power: “Lord; if you like, we will say that the fire will come down from heaven and consume them.” The Fire from above entered Notre Dame with the power of the Beloved Disciple John, so the Paraclete will also have power over this God’s plague.

    When the Fire-Paraclete entered the Church, he unveiled a starry sky: two windows were opened in the Notre-Dame’ vault (two, because ‘Two Candlesticks’ of the Apocalypse), through which one can now see the history of Salvation recorded in the constellations. What could we see through them by popping our heads, like someone who found himself in a deep well? He would have wandered this memorable night at the zenith (it would be good to ask about the details of the court astronomers, Messier and Cassini) the Little King, Leo Minor. First, the Little, because it is God’s Child, Son of Jesus Christ, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and of the Virgin Mother the Holy Church; Secondly, the Little, because it is someone who is easy to overlook, or even look away, just like when meeting an SDF.
    Oh, France, you have SDF-class presidents, and you are surprised that God wanted to lead the Great Monarch of the end times out of You, out of your smallest sons. Have you forgotten that you are the Oldest Daughter of the Church, that You belong completely to Her, the Immaculate Conception, since your King Louis ‘the Just XIII’, on Feb. 10, 1638, entrusted to Her, the Divine Virgin, the Crown of France? Do not be surprised. You do not remember this anymore, but She, your rightful Queen, remembers You. Stop weeping, because it’s make your look foggy. Also, bear in mind that Louis XIV ordered the heaviest bell of Notre Dame and named it ‘Emmanuel’, as if announcing the weapon of the greatest caliber for the time of decisive battle with the eternal enemy. This sonorous colossus, as the only one of siblings, survived the turmoil of the revolution.
    France, start asking God to reveal the Paraclete. See also more often in starry heaven over your head (strengthening your eyes with the verses of Psalm 19 (‘Coeli enarrant’), because it is for the marking of the seasons. Is this a good advice of an old gardener? No! It’s all about the time to do certain things that God, as the Lord of History, has in His agenda. He watches over you, France, Beloved daughter, and now He sends you the Lord and the Lady of All Nations to extrude You from the spider’s net and to comfort You after all the misfortunes that You have taken over your head.

    April 18, 2019, Holy Thursday and the commemoration of Saint Marie of the Incarnation (Barbara Aurillot *)

    * What this poor widow, with her six children, fought against the King Henry IV de Bourbon to wake up the Catholic Spirit in him!

    And You, France, who wear the white banner of the Maid of Orleans like a coat, have you noticed that on May 30, 2019, the Ascension of the Lord, 588 years will pass, since La Pucelle of Domrémy, lit by fire in the Rouen market, has risen straight to Heaven?
    ‘5’ ‘8’ ‘8’ it’s ‘5’ ‘1’ ‘6’,
    Do You know, France, what does ‘1’ ‘5’ ‘6’ mean to You?
    So look: Mercury Jupiter Saturn!
    You still can not see, so listen: ‘Fire the Emperor from David (House)’ comes to You, poor, bruised France!
    Thy penance, France, comes to an end: again, You will recite prayers pleasing to God, enjoy scroissants and coffee without fear that you will be attacked by that goofy girlie from Marseille, or You will be molested by a fool who thinks he is the new Jupiter.

    1. Suellen Brewster

      Wow. I am printing this out so I can read it this evening, but it’s very interesting, friend! Our Catholic history speaks to us! God bless you as His Mercy endures forever.

  4. No one comes to a bridge, dear brother, to stay on the bridge. Mary brings us to her Son. I’m sorry I didn’t make that more clear. He is our God. He is our Savior. He is our friend. But he gave us his Mother to help us. You say, “Christ is the only one that we are allowed to go to for peace and strength.” I don’t know about your faith walk, but I go to many people for peace and strength: pastors, sisters, friends, my husband, and a whole host of such friends in heaven, including and most especially the Mother Christ gave me in his last will and testament. None of them gives me salvation. Only Jesus can offer that. But they are all fonts of His grace, as each of us called Christian is called to be. Going to others for peace and strength doesn’t make me love Jesus less, because I see Jesus reflected in their holiness. I wouldn’t want to live in a “Jesus and me” world. I was created for communion, both of the saints in heaven and those of us among the Church Militant here on earth. Mary is first among them. God bless you abundantly.

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