After a much-needed night of sleep and rejuvenation, we departed our hotel to begin our day. Our hotel is set along the River Seine in La Defense--the commercial center of Paris, and dotted by several high-rise office buildings and hotels. We wound our way to the city center down the Avenue Charles De Gualle and passed by the Arc de Triumphe, Place de Concorde and other famous sites. Along the way, the Eifel Tower loomed in the background. Driving downtown, we got another sense of old as most of these buildings date to mid-evil times and Paris itself became the capital of France during the 500's.
Our first stop this morning was the Sainte Chapelle. The Chapelle itself is early gothic style built in 6 years, from 1242-1248. Walking into the Chapelle (chapel), we learned it has housed several Holy Relics from the Passion of Christ from 1239 on. The relics include the crown of thorns, at least two fragments of the true cross, a fragment of one of the nails holding Jesus to the cross, and the sponge used to wet His lips as He was crucified. King Louis IX purchased these and other Holy Relics from the emperors of Constantinople, who had owned them since the 4th century. The remaining relics are now kept in the treasury of the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris and are displayed every first Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent. The Chapelle contained two levels. Entering the lower chapel, which was the place of worship for the palace staff, we were greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary, the sanctuary's patron saint, at the portal. In the chapel itself is a 13th-century fresco depicting the Annunciation and the walls are decorated with 12 medallions thought to be the apostles. The columns were decorated alternately with the fleur-de-lys and castle, symbols of France and royalty, respectively. The upper chapel, reserved for the King and his close family and friends, contained the reliquary, or great shrine, that contained the 22 relics from the Passion of Christ. The stained glass windows on this level depicted the story of mankind from Genesis through the Passion of Christ.
Next we headed to the Monmartre (Mount of Martyrs) section of Paris where we traveled up the hill to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The basilica was constructed between 1875 and 1914 and was consecrated in 1919 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The basilica was built at the highest point in Paris as a monument to peace and reconciliation and a return to the church and Christianity. There is a beautiful mosaic above the altar that depicts Christ in Majesty and the Sacred Heart worshiped by the Virgin Mary, Joan Arc, and St. Michael the Archangel. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the Basilica since 1885. In today's gospel, from Luke, Jesus tells the disciples about blessings and our rewards in heaven. In his sermon, Father John compared this gospel to Jesus' greatest sermon--The Sermon on the Mount and how both of these sermons tell us how to live our life. He focused on mercy and our call to merciful to each other--we have to give mercy to get mercy. As Shakespeare said in the Merchant of Venice, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes." We pray that we give mercy to all those we come in contact with and that mercy will be ours in Heaven.