As Paris Burns

Chicago Tribune


As Notre Dame burned I recalled the reflections I had 22 months ago on Paris’ Notre-Dame de Boulogne.

Bill Simons

On middle Sunday at the French Open I thought of going to Notre Dame Cathedral. But I imagined it would be crowded. So I went to the cathedral I walk by every day – Notre-Dame de Boulogne – and I wrote these words.

Red robes

High arches.

Ascendant hymns

Fleur-de-lys tiles

Quiet men with old shoulders slumped low

Somber prayers.

Bells sound, heads bow

The morning light inspires

Windows of glory amplify beauty

And what of the source that has given so much?

So we search.

Where is meaning?

Found in faith? Perhaps heart? Or does it abide in the power truths of science – such cleansed precision.

And what of whimsy? Or wonder?

Source or sorcery, hymns of hope comfort. Mystery confounds the muse’s mind. Data takes us just so far.

So how do we know?

All the while the birds sing on a Sunday morning in Paris.

Devotion may waver

Ancient rituals linger

An altar boy – white robe, beige sandals, white candle

Leads the throng on this day, this Sunday morning in Paris

Can we lift our troubled souls?

May we embrace?

Where is the justice that too often eludes?

Harmony retreats.

Leaders falter.

Raise the walls, leave the union.

Is truth dead?

A coward kills –

Manchester ­– not united.

Hearts ache.

But this Sunday, Paris’ morning is just too glorious.

Life’s bounty lifts.

Are we not all pilgrims of the spirit?

Are we not blessed?

So we hope.

We must hope.

We hope we can renew

And at last embrace.

Yes, the fields of fury explode.

Still our devotion must not falter

No matter the flames.

So this sanctuary whispers.

Rituals sustain.

Hidden alcoves have heard it all.

Weary confessionals hold tight their secrets.

Ancient psalms comfort souls.

And always a question.

Will our prayers be heard?

The pilgrim wanders.

The seeker wonders.


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