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Macaulay: Cathedral / Notre-Dame de Paris

One of the things that stuck with me most reading David Macaulay’s Cathedral as a child was the amount of time it took to build a cathedral: Ground was broken for Notre-Dame de Paris in 1163, the cathedral completed in 1345. That’s 182 years. Factor in that the average life expectancy in this time was somewhere between 30 and 50 years old, and that means you could have at least three generations of a family working on the cathedral’s construction without living to see it completed.

As an American living in 2018, I’ve grown up in a culture where “results-oriented” is a buzzword on job descriptions and “done is better than good” is a corporate mantra. The idea of spending a lifetime working on one thing you’ll never live to see completed is still as mystifying to me at 32 as it was to me at 12. And yet that’s what generations of families did in the 12th, 13th, and 14th Centuries.

Why? Faith.

I once recounted this story to a friend of mine when we were both editors at a weekly magazine, the notion of building something bigger than the sum of the lives that went into building it (not exactly the stuff I felt I was doing with writing listings). He wondered if, in the 21st Century, our task was to build many little cathedrals.

Today’s contemplation: What cathedrals, big or small, are you building in your life? And why? Regardless of your spiritual bent, what are you building on faith?

(Photo: Kaci Baum