Basilica ensemble takes first tour in three years
Originally Published April 19th, 2023
The Notre Dame Liturgical Choir embarked upon a pilgrimage to France over Spring Break. Stops included the hometowns of Father Edward Sorin, founder of ND, and Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, as well as many historic churches.
Due to COVID-19 complications, the choir was forced to cancel its once-annual tour the past three years, rendering this trip the first for nearly every choir member. “It felt gratifying to finally go on tour,” remarked choir president and senior Jack Griffiths. Tour director and junior Sydney Coil told the Rover, “Planning the tour was such a rewarding experience. It was lots of fun trying to resurrect the old traditions that the choir has missed out on for three years.”
The choir’s first three days were spent in Le Mans and the French countryside, where students visited and performed in the baptismal church of Fr. Sorin and the Shrine of Bl. Basil Moreau. As respective founders of Notre Dame and the Congregation of Holy Cross, the university is deeply connected to the lives of the two priests, and choir members stressed their gratitude for the opportunity to sing in such significant locations. Junior Susan Pingel regards the choir’s tour of Father Moreau’s shrine as “the most impactful time” for her, and freshman Elliott Kirwan emphasized that it was “incredibly special to visit and sing in places so integral to Notre Dame’s history.”
A treasured experience for many students transpired when the choir broke into a spontaneous rendition of Stopford’s “Ave Maris Stella,” a choir favorite, in the crypt of Bl. Moreau’s shrine. Pingel told the Rover that despite the unassuming appearance of the crypt—“certainly nothing close to the beauty of the other churches we sang in—the performance made my heart swell with emotion, and tears slid down my face while I sang.” Coil called the experience “surreal” and considers it one of her favorite tour memories.
The choir then made its way to Paris, but not before making a stop at Notre-Dame de Chartres—one of the most highly regarded gothic cathedrals in the world and another favorite of many students. The cathedral is known for its brilliant stained glass windows; Kirwan called the famous North Rose window “indescribably beautiful.”
The cathedral also boasts a stone-carved choir wall over 300 feet long that depicts 40 scenes in the lives of Christ and the Blessed Mother. Additionally, the cathedral is home to one of the only remaining relics of the Virgin Mary—a veil said to have been worn at the time of the Annunciation and the birth of her son. Kirwan added that he was previously unaware of the relic’s place in the cathedral, so it was “especially powerful” for him to see it. Griffiths regards singing in the cathedral as his favorite tour memory, noting that the church “provided a magnificent setting for [the choir] to sing with full heart and voice.”
In Paris, students were given free time to explore the city. Almost all of the choir spent this time making some sort of pilgrimage, taking advantage of the opportunity to visit and pray in some of the oldest churches in Europe. A group of students had even planned to spend one of their free days undertaking the five-hour journey to Lourdes, but country-wide strikes caused their train to be canceled.
Regardless, many choir members discovered their favorite churches of the tour during this free time. Pingel had a difficult time choosing just one, stressing “all of them” to be “out-of-control beautiful,” but noted standouts in both the Sacré-Cœur Basilica—”which has had 135 years of uninterrupted perpetual adoration, even during the two world wars”—and Saint-Sulpice—which houses a relic of her patron, Saint Faustina. Other churches visited included Notre-Dame de Paris—although ongoing construction relegated sightseeing to the outside only—and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, the site of the Marian apparition to Saint Catherine Laboure and the inception of the famous medal and devotion.
The Liturgical Choir also performed in the Cathedral of Saint Julien and a school founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Le Mans. The tour concluded with a performance in L’église de la Madeleine, a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene which houses a first-class relic of the saint.
Many choir members felt the trip brought them closer to each other and to God. Coil remarked that “the choir gained a sense of community unlike anything [she’d] seen before,” and Pingel noted that she “couldn’t help but think of the thousands of French people throughout the long history of the Church in France who worshiped [God] in the same places that [she] was standing.” Griffiths reflected, “I think we recognized that our liturgy is something that connects us to Catholics, not just in our parish, but also in places like France … Music really is something that brings people together, and liturgical music is something that brings people—even those from different nationalities and backgrounds—closer to God.”
Mattie Lossing is a sophomore studying political science and theology. When she isn’t trying to squeeze in her homework by listening to it at double-speed, you can find her browsing Goodreads for the latest five-star reads. Contact her at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Notre Dame Liturgical Choir in Notre-Dame de Chartres
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