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By Edwin Benson


Religious oriented or not, shock and consternation set in almost instantly. To watch the iconic Paris cathedral of Notre-Dame burn set many a mind and heart in agony and foreboding. Local French residents lined the streets in sorrowful singing and prayers.

Reporters discussed the cathedral’s importance as a French landmark, tourist attraction and UNESCO heritage site. Offers of aid poured in from all over the world. Almost immediately, there was a clamor that the cathedral be rebuilt exactly as it appeared before the fire.

 

The Importance of Notre Dame

For devout Catholics, the partial loss of this treasure was traumatic. Indeed, in the architectural hierarchy of the Church, Notre-Dame de Paris ranks with Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Some cathedrals may be older, larger or even more beautiful. However, no cathedral is more recognizable than the great Gothic structure on the Seine. Notre-Dame is the towering symbol of the Catholic Faith in France.

The influence of Notre Dame goes far beyond France to the whole Catholic world. Architects in the United States drew inspiration from the French interpretation of the Gothic style. Millions of American Catholics worship in front of altars and windows influenced by those of Notre-Dame.

That influence was threatened by the first plans presented for the restoration. Many architects made outlandish modernistic proposals that would have remade the great cathedral in their own image. French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be considering some of them.

A great outcry erupted throughout France, asking for an “authentique” restoration. The French Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) gathered nearly 144,000 signatures in a short time as part of the reaction against those who would disfigure the structure through an inauthentic restoration. And the American TFP’s premier campaign, America Needs Fatima, joined in sending over 22,000 concerned petitions from America. The efforts paid off.

According to the Associated Press, “Macron came around to the traditionalists’ argument, and approved reconstruction plans for the twelfth-century monument that were presented Thursday [July 9, 2020], according to a statement from the state agency overseeing the project…. That means how Notre Dame was on the afternoon of April 15, 2019, before the fire broke out, consumed the roof and threatened the rose-windowed twin towers that keep the cathedral upright.”

 

A Public Display of Tradition

As a demonstration of the restoration, craftsmen presented a sample oak truss in front of the cathedral on September 19, 2020. As part of European Heritage Days, carpenters displayed one of the twenty-five trusses that will support the new roof in front of the Cathedral.

The truss was made with medieval carpentry techniques. A Catholic News Agency story on the event quoted architect Romain Greif, who attended the event with his family. He spoke for many when he said, “It’s a moment to see ancestral techniques that last. There is the present and the past, and it links us to our roots.”

The original trusses of giant French oak were built during the thirteenth century but replaced during a nineteenth-century restoration. It will be years before this new truss takes its place atop Notre Dame, but the sample proves that the medieval methods can still be replicated.

 

Delaying an Already Massive Task

The restoration suffered many delays. When COVID-19 struck, all work stopped. According to Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, a full three months was lost.

Reconstruction of Notre DameAnother delay was the threat of workers’ exposure to lead. According to a study published in GeoHealth, Notre Dame’s roof contained 460 tons of lead. Researchers found lead dust up to thirty-one miles from the site.

The restoration can only begin after removing massive amounts of scaffolding. When the fire struck, the cathedral was undergoing a restoration process, which required scaffolding. It must now be carefully removed because the fire affected both the metal in the scaffolds and the stone which supports them.

The stone may present a more critical problem. Most of Notre Dame is built of limestone, which can turn to dust at roughly 800-900 degrees Celsius. The heat of the fire was estimated at 800 degrees. The possible effect of the water on the heated stone must also be considered. The possibility of heat and water damage means that the thousands of stones that will support the new roof and spire need to be carefully and individually inspected.

 

Reasons for Hope

However, medieval builders knew what they were doing as Stone Specialist points out.

“The medieval masons who constructed the massive cathedral had put the lead-covered wooden roof structure above a vaulted ceiling constructed of 800m3 of limestone, intended to protect the interior in case the roof ever did catch alight. It was largely successful. Below it, rattan chairs, priceless paintings and stained glass windows were largely undamaged. A gold-plated cross above the altar and the Pietà… were among many priceless works of art that were protected from the effects of the blaze.”

It took about two hundred years to build Notre Dame. If the spirit of those who want to see Notre Dame restored to its pre-fire appearance holds firm, the job will be accomplished in much less time. Generations yet unborn will see its magnificence. The restoration may yet serve to bring the French people back to the Faith, which too many of them ignored.

Let us pray that it be so!

 


Originally seen on returntoorder.org

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for March 3, 2021

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than...

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March 3

 

Those who educate children well
are more to be honored
than they who produce them;
for the latter only gave them life,
the former give them the art of living well.


Aristotle

  
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Katharine Drexel

Catherine made her social debut in 1879 as a wealthy, popula...

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St. Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel was born Catherine Marie Drexel on November 26, 1858, the second daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and his wife, Hannah, who died very shortly after Catherine’s birth. Francis married again two years later, and he and his new wife, Emma, had another daughter when Catherine was five.

The three Drexel children were well educated and enjoyed many social and material privileges. They were privately educated at home by their tutors and would often tour parts of the United States and Europe with their parents. They were brought up to the practice of the virtues and assisted their parents every week when they opened their home to the care and aid of the poor.

Catherine made her social debut in 1879 as a wealthy, popular young heiress. However, her life took a profound turn when, after nursing Emma Drexel for three years during a terminal illness, she realized that her family’s fortune could not buy freedom from pain or death. She became a very active and staunch advocate for the black and native Americans after witnessing their plight during a family trip to the Western United States in 1884.

At the prompting of Pope Leo XIII, the young heiress became a missionary religious in 1891 and established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work among the American Indians and Afro-Americans. Her decision to enter religion rocked Philadelphia social circles, one newspaper carrying the banner headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million."

Over the course of the next sixty years, Mother Katharine Drexel, as she became known, devoted herself and her fortune to propagating her missionary work. By the time of her death in 1955, at the age of ninety-six, she had established a system of Catholic schools for blacks in thirteen states, twenty-three rural schools, and fifty missions for Indians in sixteen states. Her most famous establishment was Xavier University for Blacks in New Orleans in 1915 – it was the first of its kind in the United States and faced great opposition from radical racists.

Mother Katharine Drexel was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000, the second native-born American ever to be declared a saint after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1774.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week....

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Payback

At Anna’s mother’s funeral a man came up to her and after offering his deepest sympathy, took the grieving daughter aside, “I must tell you a story about your good mother and something she did for me…”

He proceeded to recount how, many years before he was involved in an extra-marital affair. One day, when dining with the woman in a restaurant, Anna’s parents had come in and pretended they had not seen them.

But next day he picked up the phone to hear Anna’s mother inviting him over for a piece of pie.

“You know how good your mother’s pie was…But there was also a tone of urgent authority in her voice, so I went.”

After enjoying his piece of pie, Anna’s mother revealed that she had, indeed, seen him and his girl-friend the night before.

“Though I vehemently denied it, your mother would not relent...She proceeded to remind me of the time when I was out of work and she had cooked for my family day in and day out.”

“Now, I want payback,” she demanded.

“I reached for my wallet, but she said,”

“Not that way.”

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary and Our Father assigned to each bead while thinking of something good about his wife, his children and their family life.

“If at the end of this week you still think this woman is better for you, just mail me back the Rosary, and I will never say a word about this again.”

At this point, the man telling the story reached into his pocket. Pulling out a worn Rosary, he said,

“This is the Rosary your mother gave me all those years ago. My wife and I have said it together every day since.”

 Based on a story from 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary

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