one of the places that i felt the biggest connections to during my fall break journey was the cathedrale notre-dame de paris. despite the fact that i’m not a catholic and i don’t know about all the saints scattered throughout the building, i still felt a pull from there that i could never escape. during my 5 days in paris i made 6 or so trips to the cathedrale, sometimes to pray and sometimes to merely wander around in awe at the structure and the people there being moved by their faith.

i first visited notre-dame when i was in paris 4 years ago, but at that point in my life i was a junior in high school and i was far more concerned with hanging out with my friends on the trip than i was about soaking in all the religious history and tradition of the place. this time though i let it all sink in.

one day i had been planning on heading over to the garden of the tuileries near the louvre, but as i came up past the cathedrale something in me nudged me that way instead. i ended up spending a half hour walking around and taking pictures on my manual camera and then another half hour sitting in intense prayer.

it’s amazing the sense of humility that sitting in that kind of place can bring you. the area inside is so massive an expanse, all built because a group of people had so much faith in something bigger than themselves and they wanted to share that with the world. the inside is huge, but not gawdy like other catholic churches that i’ve been inside. it’s simple nobility is what i think brings about such a sense of awe in me; the mere fact that it’s not trying to be imposing or bragging, it’s simply grand and it knows it.

despite all the tourists milling around snapping pictures and chatting and going on tours i really did find a sense of peace in being there. i sat off by myself and allowed myself to be swept up into the grandeur and power of it all and found such a sense of calm in doing so. i didn’t think i really would, but i guess religious experiences find us in the most unexpected of places. i really thought that it was too loud, too crowded, too touristy and that i would become distracted or annoyed and leave, but that did not happen. instead i was overtaken by the jumble of sounds and swept up in how inspiring of a place it is for so many people and meditated on that and on my own life.

i guess what i’m trying to get across is that moments of peace and comfort and interactions with god can happen anywhere, don’t discount a place because you don’t think that it’s too touristy or too full. god works in mysterious ways, and during my insane time in paris it was moments in the cathedrale that kept me sane and in love with my life and my faith.