People wait until your funeral to say the nicest things about you.

As we watched the catastrophic Notre Dame fire today, we heard the leaders of France, Europe, and the world, pay tribute to her history, her majesty.

President Macron immediately vowed to rebuild whatever is left when the smoke and rubble clear.

The hard truth: we’ve been losing Notre Dame for quite some time now.

When the great cathedrals of Europe see more tourists than worshipers.

When churches across the continent, including an 800-year old cathedral elsewhere in Paris just the other day, are being desecrated by immigrant vandals. And we pretend we don’t know why this is happening.

The day before Pope St. John Paul II died, the cardinal who would succeed him as Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, gave a famous lecture at the convent of St. Scholastica.

He warned:

“Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience, either by denying him altogether, or by judging that his existence is not demonstrable, uncertain and, therefore, belonging to the realm of subjective choices, something, in any case, irrelevant to public life. ..

“…in Europe a culture has developed that constitutes the absolutely most radical contradiction not only of Christianity, but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity. 

Years before the ongoing refugee crisis, Cardinal Ratzinger noted that the greater threat was indifference to God, and to the Judeo-Christian foundation of Europe itself.

I, too, mourn the destruction of the cathedral, and I take heart in the determination to repair and restore it.

But it’s more important to ask ourselves: what else have we lost?

Let’s hope and pray in this Holy Week that the Notre Dame fire sets off alarms about what really matters most.

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