French Lessons: Sacre Coeur

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The third post in the Paris series, written by Judy Brown:

Visiting the churches of Paris is one of my favorite things to do.

On a trip this October with my two good friends, Lisa and Barbara, I took advantage of a sunny day and went to Sacre-Coeur Basilica ( Basilica of the Sacred Heart) on the hill in Paris called Montmartre.

After the long trek uphill, we happily found the crowds to be manageable, and there was no wait to go inside.

I tend to get dramatic in churches, and this one caused me to gasp.  It is gorgeous.  The mosaic in the apse is one of the largest in the world and is breathtaking.

Timing was perfect. The three of us sat in the pews and listened to the priests chant and the nuns play their table harps (or dulcimers) and sing. The sacred sounds echoed and filled me with peace.

What brings me joy is the escape from the hub bub of the outside world, the serenity and beauty the setting provides, and the cross section of humanity that is present.

I always like to people watch but really find it soothing just to sit and contemplate my life, my issues, and pray for my family and friends in need.

Upon leaving, and just outside the large wooden carved doors of the church, sat a  middle aged woman begging for change.

I can still see her face in my mind. There was desperation.  There was sadness.  There was depth in her eyes. There was hope that she would receive assistance from the travelers and church goers. She was beautiful despite being ragged.

Does she have a family to support? Is she ill or in pain? Was she cold? What is she thinking about? Does she worry about menopause?

Life and its woes are relative. This sweet lady reminded me that I need to keep my seemingly small complaints about life in perspective.  Menopausal dry skin, nights sweats, and mood swings are merely inconveniences that I could certainly bare.

Does she know that she taught me more and gave me more than the Euros I gave her? This trip to Sacre Coeur was a gentle reminder of all I am grateful for.

The beauty of the church, the beauty in her eyes were a gift to me. I continue to pray for her.

12 responses »

  1. It’s way too easy to pass by the beggers without thinking about them. We don’t want to be reminded, don’t want to be made uncomfortable. My eldest son used to stop and talk to them sometimes and that made me nervous. No easy answer.

    • Yes, I have struggled with this over the years….whether we are really helping or not. But in the end I decided to leave that up to God and do what I can. No easy answer for sure.

  2. I’m so enjoying your blog. There’s always food for thought. When we traveled in Morocco, there were always beggers outside mosques and (sometimes) museums and we, following the example of local friends, kept a pocket full of change to give out. Giving alms to the poor is a huge tradition in all faiths–Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist–and so I’m thinking (I’m developing this theory as I write so please bear with me….) it seems to manifest itself outside places of worship in Europe, Asia and Africa. Here, beggers have cardboard signs and stand on intersections of busy streets. Interesting contrast.

    • That is a very interesting contrast and had never really thought about it that way. I know in NYC people often give their leftovers to a beggar when leaving a restaurant. Giving alms is an important tradition…yes!!

      • We stopped at a rest stop, while traveling through a long stretch of desert in Arizona. I watched a couple finish their bag lunches. The man took an apple from his bag, and left it on the bench for the next weary traveler. Thank you for sharing this lovely post–it is timely as we near Thanksgiving to remember all we are thankful for and to share it with those in need.

  3. Wow. That looks/sounds so gorgeous. What a fun treat! And I agree – I love to escape from noisy, crowded streets and be cushioned by the sacred silence of an ancient church. It’s comforting and inspirational.

    • The woods can do the same thing but there is something special for me to go in to a beautiful sanctuary whether old or new or any faith for that matter.

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