We are all saddened by the terrible and devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. My two visits to Notre Dame over the years truly lifted my spirit as I tried to take in the wondrous beauty we as humans try to give back to our loving God.
The horrendous fire brought to my mind a true story that took place at Notre Dame Cathedral over a century ago.
There was a bishop stationed at Notre Dame in Paris who was a great evangelizer. He had a way of reaching out to unbelievers, scoffers and cynics.
This bishop liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the Cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at people coming to the Cathedral to worship. Finally a priest had to go out to confront him. But the young man only scoffed at him.
At last the priest said to the young man, “Let’s get this over with. I dare you to do something that I’m sure you won’t do.”
The young man shot back with anger, “Try me!”
So the priest brought the cynical young man into Notre Dame Cathedral and asked him to stare at the figure of Christ on the Cross. “I want you to scream at the top of your lungs and as loud as you can, ‘You died on the Cross for me, and I don’t care one bit!’”
So the young man screamed as loud as he could, “You died on the Cross for me and I don’t care one bit!”
The priest said, “Good. Now do it again.” The young man did it again, but this time with some hesitancy, “You died on the Cross for me and I don’t care one bit.”
“You’re almost done,” the priest said. “Just one more time.” The young man raised his fist and he kept looking at the Cross, but the words wouldn’t come out.” He could not look at the face of Jesus on the Cross and say those words anymore.
When the bishop from Notre Dame Cathedral finished telling the story, he paused and said, “I was that young man. That defiant, young man WAS ME! I thought I did not need God in my life, but I found out that I did!”
I have reflected upon that story many times over the years. I have reflected on that story many times over the last 48 hours!