On the last day of the Euro-Africa Summit in Brussels last June, I booked a trip to Paris with Madeleine, the summit’s sole Parisian participant, and Anton, the Russian. I was excited to revisit the usual touristy sites, but my main purpose was to spend the night at the Sacre Coeur and experience the adoration, which I had read about here. That day, I also called up the church to reserve a bed.
It was wonderful to see Gare du Nord again after two years, except this time we arrived in the sweltering European summer.
Still at Gare du Nord: A plastic (trash?) basket to contain the water dripping from the roof. Madeleine and I laughed, Yes Anton, we’re finally in Paris (He was in Paris for the first time). I took this photo while waiting in the queue to buy my train ticket to Berlin (I hesitated to book online because it was expensive, but the fare at the station was the same. It was one of the most expensive tickets I’ve ever bought with my own money).
At Madeleine’s place, where I parked my luggage for the night and we hungout while planning our (late) afternoon.
Obligatory tourist shot
We were back on the subway shortly after this viewing of the Eiffel Tower because it wasn’t a short ride to Sacre Coeur and I had to be there around 8-9PM.
When Anton saw this, he was like, Woah that’s your hotel for the night?? I said yes, and it’s only for 5 euros. (He stayed in some hostel for definitely more than 5 euros.) In exchange, I just have to pray, which, hey, is a super cool deal.
Madeleine and Anton went with me inside the church, and left when I was guided inside the chambers where the dormitory rooms were. We agreed to meet again first thing in the morning.
At the “front desk,” I paid five euros and was given this ticket (which clearly states my fancy French last name). It’s important to keep this to show the church’s security that you’re staying for the night, otherwise they shoo you out after the last mass. Then I chose an hour when I would join the perpetual adoration and was shown to my bed for the night:
It was a dormitory-type room, but as you can see I still had some kind of privacy with the thick curtains. There was also a bathroom that was immaculate. Of course, if you come here, the goal is not to so much to sleep as to pray. But I tried to be clever by choosing the first hour of perpetual adoration (at 11pm) so I could have a continuous sleep right after. I was exhausted and hoped God understood.
This was my view from the room. It was eerie and magnificent.
After I settled my things, I joined a “meeting” with a nun and some others who were joining the perpetual adoration. This was a mistake because it was all in French, though I understood some bits, like the part on gay marriage. It was like a briefing on the current affairs that concern the church (or the church concerns itself with, whatever).
In other words, if you don’t speak straight French like me, skip this and go straight and sit near the altar at 9:30. The nuns sing their prayers and it’s lovely, even if you don’t understand anything. A guide to the words was given out, so I still managed to make out the powerful message of the prayers. At 10pm there’s a mass, which is also in French, but if you attend regular Catholic masses it’s all good. After that, at 11pm, people started to leave and and security checked for the slip. That was when perpetual adoration started for me, and though it was just for an hour, it felt long, considering I’d been there since 9:30. I wished I had my rosary, which I somehow managed to leave in DC. So be prepared with your prayer tools if you decide to do this. Alternately, you could just sit there and pray in the dark, like I did. The atmosphere was super solemn, with only red candles providing light. It doesn’t really show, but I like to pray and being grateful is one of the most important values in life for me.
At 12 midnight, when it felt like the next batch was arriving, I left. If you want, you’re definitely free to stay longer as the goal of the entire activity is to keep the prayers going, hence the name perpetual adoration. There aren’t many people who do this, I assume; that night, there were only about 20 of us.
I woke up at 6AM, packed up, and left. I did another round of prayers and took this photo (which was not allowed, please forgive me God). It’s a really beautiful church.
A sleepy Paris greets you in the morning and it’s a wonderful feeling. You have to experience this at least once in your life.
If you’ve been, you know that Paris is a dirty city. I like the contrast of the rubbish and the city landscape in this photo.
Before descending, I walked a few feet to the same spot where I first saw the famous tower in 2010. Nostalgia is a good feeling.
Because Sacre Coeur is the highest point in the city, going there means climbing up a significant number of steps. But there’s the faster and easier option provided by the funiculaire. I’m grateful for this because it means my Mom can someday effortlessly go up there.
I texted Madeleine to meet me near the station, where one of the few open cafes was. I had hot chocolate & chocolate croissant, which was redundant but French food in France is…different, to say the least. Somebody That I Used To Know was playing on the TV while I was eating, so that’s forever etched on my head.
The church from afar, while we were walking back to Madeleine’s place to retrieve my luggage.
We went back to the Eiffel Tower because Anton wanted to see it from the other side (the prettier side).
Next time I should really go up this thing.
The beauty of my background deserved better than my just-woke-up-haven’t-showered look.
Til I see you again….? Madeleine and Anton then went to tour the Louvre, while I left to go to the station.
At 12:01PM (sixth from top), my train left for Koln/Cologne, then Berlin.
If you’re interested in doing the perpetual adoration, here’s a quick recap of the steps:
1. Call the Basilica at +33 1 53 41 89 03 to reserve a bed. Do this the day before (or maybe earlier, I’m not sure).
2. Go to the Basilica and plan to arrive between 8:30 to 9:30 PM. The closest station is Anvers and allot some time for the trek up the church (about 20-30 minutes).
3. Ask for directions for the perpetual adoration, present yourself, keep the slip, and sign up for an hour of perpetual adoration.
4. Settle yourself and come down to the church at 9:30 and at your time of prayer.
(Read also this blog post.)
I want to hear/read other people’s stories when they experience this, so let me know when you do it. I think this is really great for couples, too. I don’t think you can stay in the same room/bed but you can pray together and I think that’s awesome. I wouldn’t know, really.