I’ve had a love affair with Paris for as long as I can remember. The idea that there could be a city known for love and light, held countless works of art, the epicenter of fashion and the most delicious food all in one place was beyond my imagination. I immersed myself in French classes, wallpapered my room in French fashion, knowing someday I would get there. The stories the soot covered buildings held, the layers of beauty and culture, inexplicably it felt like home for my heart.
When I finally walked the worn cobblestone streets over 20 years ago, it was surreal. What caught me most by surprise wasn’t fashion houses, or macarons, or museums. It was the churches. The Cathedrals. Monuments of grace and faith everywhere.
We walked for miles, ducking into every one we could find. St. Sulpice to Sacré Coeur to St. Germain de Prés, but none could prepare me for the wonder that is Notre Dame. The sheer size is breathtaking. With arches soaring overhead, jewel toned light filtered through stained glass, everywhere I looked there was wonder. Thousands of people wander through her doors in hushed reverence every day, awed by her beauty.
For Catholics, Notre Dame is a holy space, the heart of faith and prayer. It is a sanctuary that houses the most iconic relics of Christianity, including the Crown of Thorns and both wood and a nail from the cross of the crucifixion. Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica (in Vatican City), there isn’t a more iconic church in the faith.
While I don’t consider myself a religious person, I’m definitely deeply spiritual. I find church to be equally found in my backyard with hummingbirds and blossoming citrus as I do in a stained glass lit building. Towering redwood trees whisper prayers as often as hymns and scripture for me.
Notre Dame is something altogether different. She is sacred grace. She has held space for centuries for those in pain and grief, in joy and celebration bathing them in soft light from rose windows that are beyond description. Their light is magic, touched by angels. I felt safe in her arms. She heals. That feeling remained when I was deeply blessed to spend Christmas Day this year wandering through, connected in love and spirit. That day was my greatest gift of the season.
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This beautiful place has always held my heart. Healed my spirit. Stunned me with its beauty and grace. I’m so grateful to have witnessed it, shared a magic Christmas, and quiet moments of reflection. ✨ “I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1903)
When I learned Notre Dame was on fire, my heart ached. Like someone I knew was in pain. Strange to have such a visceral feeling for a building, yet it was undeniable. Watching the beautiful spire fall was heartbreaking.
I’ll own several teary moments throughout Monday, knowing that beautiful space will never be the same. However, it did give me a gift. Seeing Paris gather at her feet, singing Ave Maria reminded me that while humanity often gathers in crisis, we really are wired for connection. We need one another and the common desire for sanctuary gave many pause to reflect, and remember.
Tender conversations about why the fire hit me so hard helped me recognize that while parts of the structure may be lost, our stories live on and love remains. Change is inevitable, and necessary for growth. Remember to have faith in ourselves and one another, to live in grace, honoring our journey. Notre Dame, Our Lady will always hold space for us. For this I am deeply grateful.1
Also published on Medium.