Paris is burning

The world needs its hobbits, but it needs more than just hobbits. There is a homeliness about hobbitry that is familiar and comforting, but it lacks majesty. You need Gondor for that. The Shire reminds you that you can be at home in the world. But Gondor reminds you that you are small in the world.

Jake Meador, The End of Christendom: Notes on the Burning of Notre Dame

There’s so much chaos and tourism associated with Notre Dame that my experience of it last May was pretty underwhelming. I attended Mass instead (do they even serve Mass at Notre Dame?) at St. Sulpice, famed for its organ, its organists, and its post-Mass organ recital every Sunday. It’s a pretty impressive second-largest to Notre Dame — and had its own, decidedly set, fire a few weeks ago, as many churches around France have very recently experienced suspiciously-concentrated vandalism and desecration.

There’s something special, though, about discovering something that’s not in the travel guides, so my favorite Paris Church is my surprise discovery: St. Julien le Pauvre, a Hobbit-Sized Church of great antiquity that also warms the cockles of my heart because it’s Byzantine rite. My next trip to Paris (if God grants me another after the other places I want to see) will find me there Sunday morning.

If the Notre Dame fire was arson, I hope the authorities will admit it and track down the culprits. As for the edifice they torched, I’m oddly neutral. Its destruction, my unreliable gut tells me, is as likely the work of radical secularists as of radical Islamists, and either alternative is kind of a metaphor for über-secular France today: it cares too little about its Christian history to preserve it anyway.

April 15, 2019


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