The Oaks That Will Rebuild Notre Dame | Sojourners


A birds-eye view of a forest in France, where the monks donated oaks to the rebuilding of Notre Dame

Loggers in France fell oak trees for reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral, damaged by fire in 2019 / Martin Bureau / AFP via Getty Images

The Oaks That Will Rebuild Notre Dame

“I blessed the trees in the forest.”
By Dom Thomas Georgeon

Dom Thomas Georgeon is the abbot of the Abbey of La Trappe in France. He spoke with Sojourners' Jenna Barnett. Françoise Le Gall helped with interpretation.

“IT WAS LIKE a part of us was burning. Before being a historical monument, Notre Dame is a church: a place where people are going to pray, celebrate the sacraments, and the presence of Christ in the middle of Paris.

Somebody from Italy asked me if the fire was a sign from God about the church in France. To see how the firefighters worked for days and days, risking their life to save the building ... there were Christians praying when the cathedral was burning, and there were other people saying, ‘I’m not Christian but this place is a part of my life.’ The cathedral was a symbol of Christ in the middle of this city, and a sign of a community brought together.

Some private forest owners were asking for donated oaks for the rebuilding of the Notre Dame. They had to be between 100 and 200 years, very straight, could not have knots on the trunks, and had to have a diameter between 60 and 80 centimeters. I spoke about it with the community, saying ‘We’ve been asked to contribute to the rebuilding of the frame of Notre Dame, and I think we should say yes.’

I blessed the trees in the forest—something very simple. I said a prayer for all the people who are working on the reconstruction of the cathedral, asking also for the blessing of God on our community in our participation in this process.

When the forestry expert told me that our two oaks will [help rebuild] the spire, I said, ‘Oh, I love it.’ Because there is an idea of elevation in our contemplative life—trying to elevate the world toward God. I don’t know where our oaks will be, but if we are at the bottom, a little bit hidden, we know that we will support the whole spire, as we are trying to support the world with our prayers.”

This appears in the August 2021 issue of Sojourners

Dom Thomas Georgeon is the abbot of the Abbey of La Trappe in France.