Last August (eight months ago), it hit me. I had to go to France– Paris in particular. Why France was calling me, I had no idea. I love good wine, the French language, and have great memories of my brief visit there in the summer of 1986 as a young college student. My husband John and I had other priorities (or so I thought). We have been talking for a long time about visiting my childhood home, Hawaii or Italy where John has relatives he has never met.
But when the City of Light beckons… what do you do? You go! On y va- tout de suite.
It took many months of planning but John and I got there. We just got home yesterday. It was quite a journey of seeing the sights (and eating and drinking wonderful wine) of Paris, the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and the Alps.
Before flying home we had one last night in Paris. We stayed in Montmartre, the neighborhood I remember staying in when I was last in Paris at age 19. We arrived late due to the rail strike happening (we were traveling back to Paris from Chamonix). We only had time to have a quick dinner and stroll the streets just long enough for me to take a snapshot of the famous Moulin Rouge before going to bed.
We were too exhausted and it was too late for us to get up into the part of Montmartre that I remember- where the painters set up and the grand cathedral of the Sacre Coeur Basilica stood on top of the hill looking over all of Paris.
We had an afternoon flight out the next day. I woke early and set out to do a power walk. I had one hour and I was determined to get up to see the Sacre Coeur before it was time to head out for the airport. John’s knees were not up for all of the uphill trekking so I was on my own.
I meandered up cobble stoned streets with cafes and saw no sight of my destination. After asking a few locals, I found it.
The sight took my breath away. I took many photos of the cathedral itself and the sweeping city views. Then I stepped inside.
Just as I sat down on one of the benches, I closed my eyes and the most beautiful singing started. I had no clue that a service was even about to begin. The singing was a combination of the nuns and children singing a most delightful French song. I wish I knew the name of it. All I know is that I felt as though I was listening to angels sing. A huge image of Jesus was in front of me and inside the confines of this beautiful old church I knew why I had come to Paris.
The spirit and love of God, life, and tears of joy welled up inside of this tired traveler. The stress of the prior day and any tensions or worry I felt immediately melted away. I listened. I prayed. I gave thanks.
Although I am home now and acclimating to my regular day to day life including work and household chores… the angels’ beautiful voices from the top of that Parisian hill and God’s love continue to fill me with light.
Thank you, Paris, City of Light. Je t’aime.
To learn more about the spirituality and prayers at the Sacre Coeur, I recommend their website.
Here is what they call the Sanctuary Prayer:
you who wanted to remain present in our midst
by your Holy Eucharist,
mystery of Your Love,
we unite with all those
who come to worship Him,
in spirit and in truth.
Praying day or night,
we want to offer our presence to Your presence.
Give us to listen to you in silence,
you who want to reveal yourself
to the heart of our heart.
Give us to surrender ourselves to you:
let our hearts rise with
praise and supplication, with
the offering of our life in trust.
May your Sacred Heart, the
source of all mercy,
establish our hearts in inner peace and joy,
strengthen our faith,
renew our love,
and sustain our hope.