Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8th - Mary's Birthday

On September 8, 2006 I had the good fortune to be in Paris.  It was a Friday, I recall, and I spent the entire day at the Louvre.  By evening I was exhausted and decided to get on any bus going anywhere that would stop where I was standing. I planned to get off somewhere along the line that appealed. The bus I hopped on eventually turned onto the Pont Neuf to cross the Seine. Even though still tired I decided to get off there and visit Notre Dame.

 As usual, crowds were milling around in the space in front of the Cathedral (the Parvis).  It was a beautiful early evening and the facade of the cathedral had a lovely rosy hue.  On approach I discovered that the building was open and went inside. 

As I entered the cathedral I discovered that a Mass was in progress and that the cathedral was jammed with people. It turned out to be a special Mass celebrating two things:  the Nativity of Mary and the consecration of two auxiliary bishops for the diocese of Paris.  I decided to stay and participate.  It was a wonderful, moving experience and a reminder that no Catholic is ever a stranger in a Catholic church anywhere in the world.  With Jesus as the center of our lives and our worship, we are always at home and welcome. 

After the Mass I hung around for awhile, enjoying the beauty of the church and the awe I felt from its long existence at the center of so many historic events.  In my meanderings I observed that the famous 14th-century Madonna and Child that stands on one of the columns at the crossing of the church (where the nave or body of the church intersects with the transepts or wings) was bedecked for the feast with a bouquet of lilies and at her feet were other floral offerings. 

The uplift of participating in such a liturgy, so far from home yet completely at home, in such an historic place, was so great that, as I walked back to my hotel, I positively floated above the Seine, all exhaustion vanished.

For more about art for the Nativity of Mary, see The Birth of Mary .

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