Paris. 15 04 2019. 18:50 local time. Flames. And suddenly the world shifted its gaze. Hearts and minds moved, swiftly, from local headlines to the lines of firefighters forming at the doors of Notre Dame to extinguish flames which evacuating priceless pieces of history.

Days on, as holy week unfolds and embers still exude small puffs of smoke and steam, crowds continue to gather in prayer outside the aching both of the grande dame. Shock and horror has evolved to relief and gratitude. From around Paris and around the world, expressions of strength in the rebuilding of the grande dame rose above the ashes. Immediately donations, huge donations, began. Leading French families stood forward, quickly, pledging amounts which, when combined with others received over the past 5 days, are now nearing USD$1 Billion.

The response to the sight of Notre Dame on fire, and the remains that now still stand, have revealed that something bigger, stronger, more penetrating and purposeful can and does connect people across the global community, pulling people together more powerfully than the local, often biting issues that are defining the political and social headlines of our times.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council of the EU, said it perfectly the day after flames lit up Paris night skies, he opened his report to the European Parliament on April 10th’s Special European Council (Art. 50) meeting by stating:

From this place I would like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the whole French nation in the face of the Paris tragedy. I say these words not only as the president of the European Council, but also as a citizen of Gdańsk, 90 percent destroyed and burnt, and later rebuilt. You will also rebuild your cathedral. From Strasbourg, the French capital of the European Union, I call on all the 28 Member States to take part in this task. I know that France could do it alone, but at stake here is something more than just material help. The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral has again made us aware that we are bound by something more important and more profound than Treaties. Today we understand better the essence of that, which is common, we know how much we can lose. And that we want to defend it – together.

The great efforts and good intentions of givers has made clear that across cultures, communities, societies and boundaries, connecting us is a desire to protect and preserve the signatures of generations past for the sake of generations to come. Within us, as much as there are so many small things that divide us, the desire to be part of something bigger, something better, unites us. No man, no nation, is an island.

And yet, at the same time, criticism has become audible. The voice of France’s Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest movement) returning to their protests across Paris, is joined by many across the globe questioning both the direction and motivation of these massive donations.

“Why this?

Why now?

And but what about _____?

And what about _____?”

Judgement is being applied to people just wanting to do the right thing, right now. The questions are valid. The reasons to act to do something, somewhere, for someone, are vast.

However, to simply stand back and judge the givers is to jeopardise the receivers.

It should never be an either-or. Whatever the cause, whatever the crisis, wherever tragedy may occur, whatever one can do to help, one must. Now, and again and again and again, whenever moved to act.

Which is why, if the open wounds of Notre Dame have resulted in the opening of hearts and wallets of people across Paris and other parts of the world, than God’s hand is wisely at work. The outpouring of affection and funds for Notre Dame cannot not also be unlocking recognition of the power of one, by the millions, to make a difference for billions.

One can only hope and pray that the rising once more of Notre Dame has sparked a wider spirit and system for giving – however, wherever, whenever and to whomever – that spreads across the global community and calendar, the spirit of holy week rising once more.

And that keeps our hearts ever-aware of our ability to turn prayers into action. x

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019