I spent this past weekend visiting with good friends who have rented a flat in Paris for the month… France was celebrating Pentecost while we enjoyed the revivifying effects of special friendships. Our travel usually ties into work of some kind, lecturing or research, but this weekend away was purely and simply a much-needed holiday. We spent hours lingering over leisurely breakfasts and came home to simple suppers of fresh tomatoes,french bread, and cheese accompanied by good wine and deep conversation. During the days, we visited Paris landmarks and wandered comfortably through shops, cafes, churches, and cemeteries. My friend, Erwin, wrote this morning that Pentecost reminds us that “Spirit is blowing everywhere.” When I read his post this morning I thought about how well our weekend fit into the spirit of Pentecost.
And, of course, labyrinth enthusiasts that we are, we made a quick trip to Chartres on Friday, realizing late Thursday evening that the famous Chartres labyrinth was likely to be open and that this was a rare opportunity for us to make a mini-pilgrimage together. What a joy to be able to simply catch a train to take us to a place that looms so large in our hearts and imaginations!
I’ve been to Chartres enough times now to feel at home with the streets, the shops, the cafes — and the Cathedral. Inside, the splendid windows soothe my soul while the candles and statues welcome me home. Memories of past pilgrimages weave through the cool air as I revisit the stones and treasures I know and love so deeply… new memories in the making!
While the cathedral prepared to receive its Pentecost pilgrims, we arrived less officially, but in good company nevertheless.Within moments of disembarking from the train, we walked straight into a group of CSJ’s from Minnesota, including several good friends from my spiritual community there. Later in the day, other friends from far-off places drifted into the cathedral and we enjoyed that incredible sense of belonging to an international family where an unexpected rendezvous is always a heartwarming delight.
Another highlight of the trip was our Saturday evening pilgrimage to Montmartre. Despite having visited Paris numerous times in the past, I had never gone up to Montmartre, and really had no idea of what to expect. It being a holiday weekend, there was a party-like atmosphere on the crowded streets, and I loved the sense of easy comfort as we listened to music drifted into shops, and rode the funicular to the top of the famous steps.
Sacre Coeur was crowded, and I was somehow surprised that everyone who had gone up seemed to be making a visit to the church; it was such a party atmosphere out on the steps and streets that I wouldn’t have expected many people to take time to walk around the church. How wrong I was! Despite the crowds, I could feel Spirit blowing through — and in a moment of quiet inspiration, my own heart opened to answers I had been seeking. I left with a new sense of purpose and direction…
Women need to spend time with other women — unstructured time to allow hearts to open and stories to flow. Paris provided a wonderful backdrop and gave us unforgettable memories (as well as luscious cappuccinos and great wines), but it is friendship that heals the soul and renews one’s zest for life!
To share our memories, I have posted an online photo album here . Enjoy!