Rebuilding Notre Dame

Here is a good reflection on the fire that destroyed much of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It’s appropriate at the end of May as we conclude this month dedicated to Our Lady – “Notre Dame”.

The article is by the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, and is from the May issue of Columbia Magazine.

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WE WILL REBUILD – by Carl A. Anderson


I AM WRITING this column while a massive fire is still engulfing our beautiful Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. I say “our” because this magnificent structure has been for centuries an artistic patrimony of humanity, a place of prayer for millions…in France and throughout the world — and, more recently, a special place for the Knights of Columbus….

Much has been said about the significance of this tragic fire. It is difficult to grasp its significance for the French people and especially French Catholics. Perhaps “The Virgin at Noon,” a poem by Paul Claudel, can help us understand. It is noteworthy that Claudel’s conversion took place in Notre-Dame Cathedral during the singing of the Magnificat on Christmas Day 1886.

“It is noon. The church is open.
I must go in.
Mother of our Lord, I have
come to pray. I have nothing to give
and nothing to ask.
I am here, my Lady, only to look at you.
To look at you, to cry for joy, to know
That I am your son and you are there.
Only for one moment when everything stops.
To be with you, Mary, in this place
where you are.
To say nothing, to look at your face.
To let my heart sing in its own language.
To say nothing, but simply to sing
because my heart is too full
… .
Because you saved me, because
you saved France.
Because France too, like myself, was
for you a thing to be considered.
Because at that moment when
everything collapsed, you intervened.
Because you saved France once again.
Because it is
noon, because we are
at this moment of today.
Because you are there for always,
simply because you are Mary,
Simply because you exist.
Mother of Our Lord, we give
thanks to you.”

When the president of France announced today that Notre-Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt, I
thought of how the great Gothic cathedrals were originally constructed. An account from 1144 states that the faithful were freely “harnessed to carts, laden with stones, timbers, corn and whatever might be needed for the work of building the cathedral, the towers of which rose like magic into the heavens… . Everywhere men humbled themselves, did penance, and forgave their enemies. Men and women could be seen dragging heavy loads through mire and marsh, praising in song the miracle which God was performing before their eyes.”

Mindful of all the controversies consuming the Church in recent years, the image of this burning cathedral seemed in a way to symbolize the devastation so many Catholics have felt as our Church has been rocked by one crisis after another.

Fires have destroyed great cathedrals before, and they have been rebuilt. So let us hope this will be true again. But not only this church. Let us resolve to patiently “rebuild” the Church, not with granite and mortar, but with living stones in the spirit of those earlier builders — with humility, penance and with gratitude for the miracle that God is still performing before our eyes. And letus do so with confidence in Mary, who “at that moment when everything collapsed” does not hesitate to intervene for us.

Vivat Jesus!


Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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