I saw the buckling of Notre Dame’s spire
And then its swift fall into raging fire
As though the West had fallen all at once—
As though heretics had toppled the Cross.
Such swirling smoke as the oak beams collapsed,
And all the countless treasures of the past
Were lost forever—all our inheritance,
Which caused the stunned crowds watching it to gasp.
How had it come to this? What could be done?
Prodigal and selfish like everyone,
We’d spent our liberty in unbelief—
Stockpiling errors, and grief upon grief.
We did not see the barbarians at our gates
As aliens and strangers but quaint refugees—
And since we wanted gardeners and maids,
These fanatics spread chaos like disease.
We gloried in luxuries, and grew soft,
While thugs pillaged and raped and cut heads off.
Had we, who preached peace to son and daughter,
Merely led them unarmed to their slaughter?
The roof was gone. What could we do but weep
And hope to salvage charred scraps we might keep
Of the storied heirlooms of our ancestors
Who were great kings and saints and even martyrs?
The firemen struggled still, and then a priest
Ran out with relics in his arms—as though at least
One shepherd remained true despite our sins
As bystanders knelt to pray and sing old hymns.
A human chain of brave fighters soon formed
To carry out of fire His crown of thorns
With shards from the True Cross, and sacraments.
Our Lady sheltered still the Holy Prince.
Then water cannons tamped down the flames
And there she was—not smoldering remains
But surviving. At dawn the light poured, still,
Through three rose windows on a miracle.
It gleamed through ash and rubble. Numinous.
Untouched and whole, the altar-cross was fixed
On shining forth from our wreckage like the sun.
The light that led us here would lead us on.