Sometimes, things happen that are completely unexpected and wonderful. We Christians often refer to them as “graces.” Whatever you call them, they are gifts, and the best response to a gift is pure, simple gratitude. This past weekend I received such a gift; I got to go to Paris. I wasn’t planning on going to Paris this semester, and it certainly wasn’t in my budget, but when a friend of mine had an unused plane ticket, and asked me if I would join him, how could I refuse? After all, it’s Paris!
Paris is wonderful. I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “This guy gushes about everything. Not everything can be that wonderful.” You’re right. Not everything can, and I do admit, I’m kind of enthusiastic with my descriptions sometimes, but this time I really mean it. Paris is wonderful—or remarkable, beautiful, romantic, astounding—pick your adjective. I love Paris. 48 hours is not enough time for Paris, so when you go, plan for more time.
I have now lived in Rome for almost four months, and in that time, I’ve come to appreciate—and despise—certain aspects of this city. It is a city of opposites. Juxtaposed against one another are the spiritual and the secular, the Church and the State—and it has been that way for over two thousand years! Romans have their strong points, but they aren’t anything like Minnesotans (which, by the way, can sometimes be good, and other times deeply jarring). One weekend, they are flocking to a papal event, and the next, they’ll be rioting in the streets, blowing up police cars (seriously, it happens). Whatever they do, they do loudly, and with much (apparent) aggression (or enthusiasm?). It has become clear to me that, in four months, one can only come to surface level understanding and appreciation of what makes Rome different from all the other cities in the world. So clearly then, I am not an expert on what makes Rome—well—Rome.
I am even less of an expert on Paris. I was only in Paris for approximately 48 hours, and so my sample size is quite small, but as a person who tends to be particularly tuned in to “gut feelings,” I was quickly aware of the fact that Paris agreed with my own personal constitution far more than Rome. I’m sure that, once you get to know it, Paris has many of the same problems as Rome, and certainly, one cannot properly understand Paris without first understanding Rome—it is the Eternal City, and I love it for that—but Paris just resonated with me somehow. It is like when you get to the end of a piece of music and the orchestra strikes a chord that just makes your heart leap—that’s the feeling I got in Paris. Rome is fabulous, and it is a wonderful place to spend a semester studying the Catholic Faith, but I don’t think I could live here long-term. Paris now…well, it must suffice to say that I hope I can go back to Paris one day, if only to see if it is really as awesome as it seemed last weekend.
The photo is from inside the upper chapel of La Sainte-Chapelle, which was built to hold some of the relics of Christ’s Passion. The structure is a masterpiece in Gothic architecture, and the windows are simply astounding.
Ciao for now,