|January 19, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 2 • Oakland, CA|
Looking forward to saying Mass
in Notre Dame Cathedral
The first time I saw Paris was on a pilgrimage. I was a seminarian and I was the organizer and group leader for the pilgrimage, which had gone first to Fatima and Lourdes.
I did visit Notre Dame Cathedral. It took my breath away. My group was scheduled to spend 40 minutes at the cathedral. I took more than an hour going through it, and came out into the bright June afternoon to find the bus and all my pilgrims waiting for me.
I remember thinking to myself, as I crossed beneath the great arches and gazed up at the stained glass and the magnificent Rose Window above the high altar, "I want to come back here some day and celebrate Mass."
Notre Dame is spectacular. I have returned to Paris several times in the years since, but I have yet to celebrate Mass at Notre Dame.
For all its worldliness and sophistication, Paris has always been a Catholic city. It is said that if you throw a stone in Rome you are bound to hit a Catholic church; really, the same is true of the French capital. Rue de Bac, site of the 19th-century apparitions of the Blessed Mother which gave us the Miraculous Medal, is in Paris.
I have been there and have seen the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure. A church only a couple of blocks away boasts the relics of St. Vincent de Paul, including his incorrupt heart. Spectacular churches such as St. Denis, Sacre Couer and St. Chapelle are all just part of the Parisian cityscape; Paris in its roots is Catholic.
I now typically stay at a small bed and breakfast near the home of friends of mine in Paris; a bed and breakfast just a block from the Place du St. Augustine, named for the magnificent church that dominates the plaza. Lining the plaza are coffee bars, bistros, gift shops and flower stands; the plaza itself is busy with pedestrian, motorbike and automobile traffic almost 24/7 — a very Parisian experience, sitting with your coffee for an hour or two, on the Place.
Our pilgrimage will give us both a tour of Catholic highlights and then a second day free to experience Paris on our own and the only trouble with that is trying to decide what to see, and what to miss!
I have been several times to the Louvre, but not once has the visit been long enough. Walks along the Seine and through some of the major parks are highly recommended. I am anxious one day to go at least to the restaurant on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower (if not all the way to the top). Montmartre and the Left Bank appeal to the artist in me, as they always have.
But above all what I look forward to, this October in Paris, are the awe-inspiring churches. Maybe, this trip, I will celebrate the Mass, at Notre Dame!
(Father Jim Sullivan is parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood.)
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