Friday was the day to be alone. I didn’t see anyone I knew all day, except David when I went to eat lunch at the Wells Studio. It was a good change. My French skills re-appeared because if I wanted to talk, I needed to speak French.
I realized that the only thing on in relation to the opera was a modern dance spectacle that I didn’t particularly want to see, so I decided to go to see Notre Dame against my better instincts. I had the intention of going to Notre Dame for a Sunday mass, not as a tourist on a Friday evening. But I went.
It was a good experience. I decided that the tourists were not going to scare any kind of divinity out of Notre Dame that was there before, even though they are disrespectful. It was not nearly as commercial as I remember it being. I lit a candle and said a prayer for St. Margaret’s (unfortunately there was no St. Margaret’s chapel so I did it in the Jesus chapel). There are also some amazing artworks in Notre Dame, and it was absolutely awe-inspiring to see works that could very well hang in the Louvre in their intended place – the church. They take on a whole new beauty when they are in a place they belong, and where people appreciate the stories they tell.
I paid to get into the treasury. I have a fascination right now with relics of the church, and I wanted to see what Notre Dame had acquired. Of course, they had a piece of the cross of Jesus and also several pieces of crosses of martyrs. They had tons of bones of martyrs and other body parts that I couldn’t understand in French. There were two tiny sculptures of Carpeaux’s that I adored – even before I found out that Carpeaux made them. It was so interesting, and it was also the quietest part of the church. (I hope everyone understands that I don’t necessarily believe that Notre Dame owns a part of the cross of Jesus, but they believe they do, and it is so interesting to see how these things are presented.)
Of course the church is beautiful and I was glad I went.
I was on a roll, visiting churches, so I decided to visit St. Severin, which is a church the SRSS chamber choir sung in a few years ago. It is only a few blocks from Notre Dame.
Now – here is a church that actually feels like a church. It is small – a bit larger than St. Margarets, and some of the chapels are used as storage space. You can tell that this is a church in use, and it does not bother to cater to the needs of the tourists as Notre Dame does.
Something happened while I was in there. It was almost completely silent, and it had the atmosphere of prayer… and I suddenly needed to sing. It is so hard to describe this urge, and nearly as strong came the fear of doing something like this in such a silent space. It takes a lot of courage to make that first clear note, and I stood in a corner, out of sight, but in such a place that the acoustics could still pick up my sound. It was sunset, and the clouds cleared for just long enough to let the rays of the sunset shine through the stained glass windows. I think I worked up the courage for about 15 minutes, and waited until there was absolute silence. Somehow I knew I needed to sing before I left the church, and I did – I sang only the first verse of Amazing Grace, and it reverberated so loudly I almost lost my nerve at the end of the first phrase. My voice shook because I was so nervous, and some of the people in the church spotted me. The priest came running out of the confessional to see what was happening. But it was the feeling of freedom, and it was such a pure experience. It is not often that I have sung with the intention to not be seen; for no recognition whatsoever. But it is this kind of thing that moves people the most.
I left immediately after I finished the verse, so I don’t know what the reaction was. But it doesn’t matter. It was the most real thing I have done in a long time.