The first place we stumbled into, as if by accident, was a church called "St. Merry's". The spelling is correct – and I was completely caught off guard by this place! It was as if the spontaneous creativity of a Montessori school and the liturgy of the Catholic church got rolled up into one big ball. Leftover from Pentecost were hundreds and hundreds of large origami birds hanging from the ceiling spaces of the church. And it was first communion day. See for yourself!
Parents were proudly bringing in the bread that their families had made for the Eucharistic celebration:
And a little band was practicing away, putting a little swing to Taizé favorites.
If that didn't wake us up, I don't know what would! My first reaction when walking in here was "who's running this place?" But after a few minutes, it was plain to see that this was a vital, family-centered community who were breathing the love of the Eucharist into their children.
St. Merry is named for the 8th century abbot Medericus, former abbot of Autun, who came to Paris on pilgrimage and spent the rest of his years in this city. After his death, he was proclaimed the "patron saint of the right bank". The right bank, that is, of the Seine River.
The second stop was not by accident: we walked to another arrondissement and by 11.00 had reached Eglise St. Gervais, the home of Paris' Jerusalem community, and likewise home to an amazing liturgical tradition known all over the world.
St. Gervais' liturgy is sung almost in its entirety – the only thing not falling into this category being the homily and the announcements at the end of the liturgy. Even the doxology and the epiclesis were sung in three-part harmony by the Presider and concelebrants. It stood in sharp contrast to the effervescent and almost uncontrollable joy of the previous church, but here, in its solemnity, was a song and prayer tradition just as engaging. The hymns, psalms, and three- and four-part plainchant settings were completely accessible, even in French.
Finally, at the end of the day, we saved the best for last: we attended the other Notre Dame, and joined in Vespers. Thousands and thousands of people were there, all crowding in to pray. Again, the psalm tones were lyrical and easy to enter into. The Revelation Canticle had an other-worldly joy that was purely infectious! And to hear this being thundered by such a collection of pilgrims from all over the world – it was hard to believe that Catholicism is dead, even in the heart of Paris.
So this is a glimpse into our Corpus Christi – a day when the two of us came face-to-face with so many different expressions of the mystery that is the Body of Christ.
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Location:Rue Yves Toudic,Paris,France