Friday, May 7, 2010

Outside Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

I'd never attended mass before in my life. Well, until recently. Being in Montmartre which is in the vicinity of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, I decided this would be the place to experience my first mass. Riding on the funicular, my heart fluttered with expectation. The service started with the pipe organ music that was clearly designed to create a sense of awe and reverence. Priests and altar boys in their robes started walking down the aisle towards the altar. Plumes of smoke billowed out of the swinging thurible in the hand of the lead priest as he walked. The oppressive organ music was blaring from all directions. If all of those things were meant to soothe weary souls in the pews that thirsted for mercy and hungered for a healing touch that morning—and mine certainly did that Sunday morning—then, clearly, that didn't do it for me. Suddenly, I felt dizzy—suffocated. I felt sick—so sick I had to behave improperly by making a quick exit when the mass was still in progress. For someone who has been trained since she was little to sit through long adult events, this says a lot about how I felt. Then there I was, no longer in the basilica where all the theocentric activities were taking place, standing in an open space outside. In front of me was this lone street busker making the most beautiful music on his harp. No incense burning. No chanting. No pomp and circumstance. No fancy cloaks or head dresses. It was just a man and his harp. I stood there entranced as my parched soul drank deeply. All of a sudden, I felt joy—the kind that I knew couldn't have come from inside myself.