Will Notre Dame’s Fire Convert People to Catholicism? One Man’s Powerful Story

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I am very saddened by the fire in Paris. As the music director for a Catholic church, I wanted to share my story.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fort Smith is historic (not as historic as Notre Dame), but I wanted to help the people who watched their cathedral burn. God listens!

As I sat down to practice organ for Easter masses, I spoke with our organist playing for Easter. She mentioned that it was a hard day to practice.

I asked, “Why?”

She responded, “People are taking pictures. We don’t normally have ‘tourists.’ People only occasionally look around.'”

We joked about it and she went on her way.

So I sat down, ready to tackle a serious practice session. Then, out of nowhere, I heard someone ask, “Is there anyone who gives tours?”

I nicely replied, “No ma’am, but I would be happy to tell you what I know about the church.”

In about 15 minutes, I told her everything I knew about our church. She then explained that she had seen our church at the end of the main downtown road and never cared to go in.

She was not Catholic, nor was she religious at all. She was, however, in love with Paris, France, and had been to Notre Dame several times. She loved the place.

After seeing it on fire, she thought it would be a shame to never visit our church. She was amazed at the beauty, even though it is not as large as Notre Dame.

I explained to her that the church’s builders expressed the same love of God.

She smiled and said, “If people believed, I would come here every Sunday.”  I then invited her to Easter Sunday Mass, but she gave me a weird look.

Hopefully I planted the seed.

Our church definitely had a “bump” in visitors this week. Maybe it was because of the fire–who knows?

This weekend, everyone will have “extra” people in their churches. The priests are very busy with Holy Week. If you see a wanderer in your church, talk to them.

Paris’ loss may be every church’s chance to reach out to one soul.

I know my visitor was saddened by the fire, but at least she smiled, knowing she saw that all is not lost. Fire will only make our one, true faith stronger.

Walls and art don’t make us strong; rather, it’s the people building the Church. God who calls us to use what he gives us and to turn everyday life into our own personal Notre Dame.

The photos of the burnt cathedral show us the way.

Fire, ashes, and smoke–but shining through it all–the cross.

[See also: Notre Dame Aftermath: Video Reveals Stunning Detail of Cathedral’s Interior Damage]

[See also: “The Organ Lives!”: Notre Dame’s Monstrous Organ Survives Fire – Listen to it Here!]

Mat Burkepile
Mat Burkepile is the music director for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He is a master violinist, new organist, and a music teacher. He is also married to ChurchPOP's English Editor, Jacqueline Burkepile.