Our quads were burning as we continued walking higher, higher, and yet still higher, with the goal not yet in view as apartments and gift shops surrounded us on each side. But it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we had just spent days savoring cheese and croissants, so we didn’t mind the exercise.
It was our last day in Paris, and my husband and I were spending our last evening walking to the highest point in the city, Montmartre, The Mount of Martyrs. A place where a number of Christians were martyred, including Saint Denis, Paris’ first bishop and patron, who was beheaded there.
This is a famous spot, not only for its picturesque and panoramic views of the city of lights during sunset, but also for the spiritual significance it holds as the location of the Basilica of Sacré Coeur (The Basilica of the Sacred Heart).
Small Offerings Made Big
With eleven million visitors annually, Sacré-Coeur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris. Groundbreaking for the basilica began in 1875 and the church was completed in 1914, finally being consecrated in 1919 after the end of World War I.
This is no small building. It stands at 272 feet tall, 115 wide, and 272 feet long. This is almost as tall (and long) as the height of the Statue of Liberty! With a space this large I would assume that it was commissioned by a number of generous and wealthy benefactors, but this was not the case. In fact, large sums of money were refused. Only small offerings from private individuals, dioceses, congregations, etc. were accepted and the names of these donors are engraved in stone. Even Saint Thérèse of Lisieux contributed to the basilica. While on pilgrimage to Rome with her family, her group stopped in Paris for Mass in Sacré-Coeur’s crypt (as the basilica was still under construction). Afterwards Thérèse herself offered one of her gold bracelets to be melted down for use in the basilica’s monstrance.
Looking for Jesus
This basilica is known for its adoration chapel, so when we arrived, my husband and I circled the perimeter looking for the Blessed Sacrament. We peeked into every side chapel, but still didn’t spot Jesus.
After spending a few minutes confused that we couldn’t find the place where we heard so many friends speak about praying, we decided we would just take a seat in one of the pews and pray in the nave. It was then that we found Who we were looking for. Sure enough, Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament right above the main altar. We had missed him because the monstrance was standing far above eye level and suspended several yards higher than the altar’s tabernacle. If we had looked more closely around the center of the church, we wouldn’t have been able to miss Him. It was so refreshing to see Jesus exposed front and center, and not off in a side chapel like in so many churches.
A Bombing and Pandemic
Since August 1 of 1885 perpetual Adoration has remained uninterrupted in Sacré-Coeur. That’s over one hundred thirty-five years of perpetual Adoration!
One of the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre said in an article for the National Catholic Register that “adoration hasn’t stopped even for a minute, including during the two world wars…Even during the 1944 bombing, when some fragments fell right next to the basilica, the adorers never left.” Then, in 2019, when the pandemic posed difficulty for perpetual Adoration to continue as the basilica was closed to the public for over two months, the fourteen nuns of this community reorganized their life in order to make sure someone was always with Jesus in the sanctuary. This meant that each sister had two holy hours each day . . . or longer if one of the sisters accidentally slept through her middle-of-the-night alarm.
Adoration is open to the public every day from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and even overnight for those who register for a night hour. Adorers are free to choose the time they want to pray during the night and are then given a pass to enter the basilica. A small fee is taken for adorers to sleep in a dormitory, but the night includes compline sung in the basilica with the Sisters, a 10:00 p.m. Mass, lodging in the guest house, morning Mass, morning prayer, and a simple French breakfast before departing.
Two of our very own BIS writers have experienced a night hour with Jesus at Sacré-Coeur. While neither one of them experienced the kind of midwestern or southern hospitality that some of us might be familiar with, they were blessed with a time of intimate prayer. Olivia Spears spoke of how her night hour was a time of “spiritual resting” in a “little haven” in the city. Grace Bellon also spoke of the peacefulness in the dark and quiet chapel. She also noted the fact that the basilica is literally surrounded by the Red Light district with Moulin Rouge just down the street. “Looking back . . . it makes perfect sense: ‘where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more’” (Romans 5:20).
This reminds me of the motive behind the Eucharistic Revival, which began this past summer on the feast of Corpus Christi. The USCCB website reads:
In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present, reminding us that He is more powerful than the storm. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world.
Jesus desires to bring this to completion through the grace of the Holy Eucharist, just as the summit of Montmartre points to the source and summit of our faith.
How has Jesus healed and renewed you through Eucharistic Adoration? How is He equipping you through this Sacrament, to be a source of healing and renewal for others?Sacré-Coeur // The City of Lights Made Brighter #BISblog // -->> CLICK TO TWEET