The Brigade and the Choir

After the night train to Paris we arrived tired but alert. The train had “sleepers” and a food carriage. All the boys were crammed into a six bed sleeper car + luggage there was very little room to move without re-arranging stuff. The sardine community. By the time we arrived at the Lyon station the bus was ready to take us to Sacre Coeur on Montmartre…no rest. Hit the ground running. Our tour guide for the morning was Christine who is an authentic Parisien (as she constantly reminded us). She sang, told stories and was delightfully entertaining on the way to Montmartre. Our first stop was the church of St. Pierre which is the oldest church in Paris. A smallish venue, but beautiful in its simplicity. It was in this general area that Ignatius and his college companions pronounced vows of poverty and chastity with a special vow to go to the Holy Land as missionaries, and the Jesuits were born.

The first highlight of the day was singing in this beautiful church while the fire brigade (Fire department) showed up in their shiny silver helmets with their ladders to change the bulbs in the ceiling of the church. The kids just sang away and continued as if this was the most normal thing in the world to take place. Next time I need to change a bulb on the ceiling of my apartment, I will call the Menlo Park Fire Department to help me out. It was a trip. The music performance was as moving as the one last night in Venice and got an appaluse. I think it was an appaluse because by the end of the third song, all the lights were off so the fire department could do their job. Ah, I love France.

From there we walked the short distance to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. It’s the big white church you can see from almost any spot in Paris. I would call it old, but the 19th century doesn’t seem old enough compared to the churches we have sung in so far. Is that snobby?

We lunched in the Latin Quarter before moving on to Notre Dame and its magnificence. Because we are on a schedule, the time spent inside was limited to about 15 minutes, although Bray’s watch probably stopped when he spied the hugh pipe organ in the church. Hoping that it would play all by itself and finding out that it wouldn’t he finally joined us on the bus to the ride to our hotel.

Quick shower to wash some of the grime and travel dirt from Venice and the train, we were ready for Mass at another magnificent church no one knows about, Eglise St. Eustache. Plain and soaring, like Notre Dame, it had an intimacy all its own. The kids sang during the Mass and were terrific in the huge room. And the second highlight of the day occurred at the end of Mass when the celebrant began, what I thought was the “Happy Birthday” song. (Come on now, you would have said the same thing!) Turns out one of the priests who concelebrated the mass was celebrating his anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. How did I know? Well I went up after mass and congratulated him on his birthday and he told me what the anniversary actually about. Don’t you love France?

Dinner back at the Ibis hotel and an early (10.30 pm) bed. Me too.  Finally up to date. More later and I promise I will post more pictures very soon.

and so we sing…