Yesterday presented a stark contrast in images.
Following a heavy burst of rain in the morning, Digital Media Specialist Mac Kennedy captured a sharply-defined rainbow from the north entrance to school. In the foreground is a beautifully landscaped garden just coming into bloom. In the middle stands a stone cross, crafted by Andy Cocozzella '73. During this holiest week of the liturgical year, the juxtaposition of rainbow and cross seemed fitting. Our week-long solemn recollection of the suffering and death of Jesus will yield to a glorious celebration of the Resurrection, of triumph over death, on Easter Sunday. The rainbow, set against the gloom of the clouds, is a beautiful symbol of the hope that sustains us.
A few hours later, the news feed on my phone brought the jarring news of fire at the Notre-Dame de Paris. In the ensuing hours, a catastrophe – religious, cultural, architectural, historical - played out before us.
I can recall my visit to Notre-Dame in 2012. I watched the antics of street performers and trinket vendors as I stood in line outside on a muggy July afternoon. Once inside, the cathedral offered welcome relief from the heat. I remember, too, how dark it was. And how beautiful.
Even though the percentage of practicing Catholics is modest these days, TV commentators emphasized how Notre-Dame plays a central role in the identity of the French people. I heard last night that French maps calculate distances from Paris using Notre Dame as the center. President Macron spoke movingly of the importance of Notre-Dame to Catholics, the French nation, and the wider world. He also spoke about hope.
My thoughts turned to our own sacred space dedicated to Our Lady. Our Chapel is situated at the center of our school's footprint. At the main entrance, there it is, straight ahead. It juts into the courtyard, surrounded on three sides by the academic wing and the Gallery on the other. The windows above the entrance evoke the Gothic shapes of Notre-Dame de Paris. Almost every student has the daily opportunity to glance in while descending the main stairway. The Chapel is the heart of our school.
Perhaps it was coincidental that we had a much larger than usual attendance at 7:30am Mass this morning. Or maybe in the aftermath of the Notre-Dame fire, a sense of collective loss stirred some to come and stay a while.
In this Holy Week where we contemplate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, I welcome all in the Good Counsel community to stop by our sacred space named for Notre-Dame, Our Lady. Amidst the storm and stress of daily life, tranquil time spent in a beautiful space, can have an uplifting effect. It's not unlike seeing that rainbow.
We are a people of hope.
Wishing you abundant blessings this Easter.