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Notre-Dame Cathedral

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Dear friends of Our Lady of Paris:

At first I thought it was just me, bursting into tears when I heard the news and saw Notre Dame de Paris going up in flames. It made sense considering my personal history; I was baptized in a gothic cathedral and walked past it to go to school four times a day every day of the week for a couple of decades.

Like most of people of my culture and generation, we attended weekly mass, weddings, funerals there. Our home sat right across from a cloister, in the center of a medieval town filled with magnificent gothic edifices. Whether we went to the movies, to the university or simply to buy a baguette, around every corner of every street, you just could not escape gothic cathedrals.

So it had to be me, who was that moved that upset … but then some of my American friends volunteered that they were upset too, and that each time they went to Paris, they made it a point to stay close to Notre Dame. They confessed that they felt something there, inexplicably, palpably uplifting to the soul.

Later that day I was stunned to hear an American anchor say (and I quote): Notre Dame is part of my DNA (?) and part of our global DNA (?) that is why the world is responding with such intensity right now “. Really?  Part of my DNA, no doubt but part of hers? This was baffling.

Equally stunning was to see  Parisians (!!), uniting to sing prayerful hymns in the streets, their heart openly longing to save that sacred site. I knew  then with complete certainty that it was not just me. Something profoundly significant was happening under our eyes, touching our collective psyches in unexpected ways, arousing in many of us the urge to contribute to the re-construction* of this symbol of transcendence, this symbol of the best within us, may I say, not a day too soon.

Notably, in 1431, Joan of Arc, the Patron Saint of France, captured in a few words the essence of last week’s event, the archetypal meaning of that cross miraculously standing and shining. Regardless of your religious choices or lack thereof, in my view this statement is a timely message of Hope and says it all. “Hold the Cross high that I may see it through the flames”. Let me  wish you a meaningful Easter or Passover celebration.

With warmest regards,

* Should you be inclined to help reconstruct Notre-Dame, here is the link to the French Heritage Society. They just started a fund called Notre-Dame Fire Restoration Fund.

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