Paris Diary I

Having a truly enjoyable visit to Paris. Here is what I have done so far:

I arrived yesterday afternoon about 4pm to my lodging; after getting settled I made a visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at Rue du Bac (that was the tiny teaser photo I posted yesterday). That is where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830. It is a very special place, and it was notable how many people were there just to pray (the church was quite full). So I asked if I could celebrate Mass there, and made arrangements to do so this morning. After stopping for some fast food, I did some school work the rest of the evening.

This morning, then, I celebrated Mass in a small side chapel in one of the balconies of the chapel at Rue du Bac, which I offered for all of the prayer intentions that I received (including those that came in at the last minute).

Later in the morning, I set out to walk to the great Notre Dame Cathedral. Along the way, I stopped at the massive abbatial church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (it turns out there are many enormous churches in Paris). Shortly thereafter I crossed over the Seine River to the “City Island” (l’Île de la Cité), which is where Notre Dame is located.

It turns out, this year is the 850th anniversary of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. They have a large staging area set up in front of it with stadium-like seating facing the Cathedral. I’m not sure what it was for (maybe for the light shows that I think they occasionally do there), but my inner-recreational-outrage tendencies reacted against it. It would have been better without. Anyway…

So the line at Notre Dame was approximately as long as the line to get in at St. Peter’s. Except that it moved a bit faster, and it was overcast and about 55 degrees, instead of sunny and hotter, with folks constantly cutting the line like at St. Peter’s. Inside was a mob scene and overall, fairly irreverent. They really should have more docents walking around giving disapproving glances and otherwise forbidding people from acting like they are not in a church. At any rate I spent a lot of time there walking around and looking at everything. The treasury (museum) had some spectacular sacred vessels on display: they don’t make them anymore like they used to. The famous rose windows that I have always seen pictures of were exactly what I expected…

At a certain point, while Mass (in French) was going on, I sat down to pray for all of the prayer intentions that I received. Then, with Mass having concluded, I approached a sacristan to ask, in my best tourist French, if there were any possibility of going back to see the high altar, which is surmounted by a beautiful pietà statue. It turns out that my impressive French and the fact that I was wearing a collar had no effect: there was most certainly no chance that I could go back to that sacrosanct area. C’est la vie…

After all that I headed over to the adjoining St. Louis Island, a very charming part of the city that is everything you ever hoped Paris would be. I even managed to find a very satisfying lunch there at a good price, which is better than you hope things in Paris would be. Lunch was followed with a visit to the church of St. Louis, and then I headed over to the other side of the Seine from where I started. My destination was the Church of St. Eustace, but along the way a few other things caught my eye…

The first was the very large church of St. Gervais and St. Protais (maybe there is an Englished version of those names, I’m not sure. Gervaise?…). In which I snapped the following photo:

Something nice.

From there I headed over towards St. Eustace, but I found another big church along the way, St. Merri (maybe in English it is Merry?). The general condition of that church is the topic of a future recreational outrage post, although there were many beautiful things in it and most of all, our Lord was there.

St. Eustace is a gargantuan church with a huge pipe organ (the norm in Paris, it seems) and impressive gothic architecture. Anyway, this has to end soon, so from there I took the metro back to the area of Saint-Sulpice, visited that church (I might go there to hear the organ soon, not sure), then came back to my lodging. And after a day of cool temps and clouds, the sun is just starting to appear now. Whoops, there it goes.

This evening they are displaying the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame, so I am going to head back over there to see that. From there, I might head to the Louvre, which has evening hours on Friday. Not sure.

Tomorrow I will celebrate Mass again at Rue du Bac, will see a bunch of other sights, and I will also get some studying done.

Now having been here for just over 24 hours, I have to say that Paris is a wonderful place, and it has been especially edifying to see the faith still being lived out in an otherwise extremely secular country. A number of people have greeted me warmly (Bonne journée, mon Père!) and there are many positive things happening here.

You are all in my prayers! Many more photos and updates to come…

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