Friday, May 4, 2012

When the Saints Go Marching In

We are trav'ling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before,
And we'll all be reunited,
On a new and sunlit shore,

Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in!
~~American spiritual often played by jazz bands

This year, on our annual migration to a prairie summer home, we side-tripped down Canal Street
 to revisit New Orleans' French Quarter for a couple hours~~we wanted to see if it's the same as we remember it.

 Naturally, Cafe du Monde is the first stop.
This gathering spot for local folk and visitors has served cafe au lait
(half strong chicory coffee, half steaming milk)
 and beignets (puffy square crullers showered with confectioners' sugar) since 1860.
It's tradition, you know.
And, yes, it's just as we remember.

Dusting the sugar off our shirts, we amble along the ironwork fences of Jackson Square.
 (Ambling is the only way to enjoy the Vieux Carre.)

The mule-drawn carriages are the same, standing quietly in queue,
 waiting for paying customers who want a slow souvenir ride through the old city.
 Artists' work hangs on the black wrought-iron fences and
 General Andrew Jackson, true to his sculptural form,
still rides a rearing horse at the center of Saint Anthony's Garden. 
And, sure enough, as we turn the corner on Chartres Street,
 a five-piece jazz band in dreadlocks jazzes it up
 in front of the cathedral~~appropriately, a spirited version of
 When the Saints Go Marching In.

The Cathedral-Basilica of SAINT LOUIS King of France
 is the centerpiece of Jackson Square, at least for me.
I'm eager to step through its doors once again.

Who's Saint Louis? Louis IX, crowned King of France in 1226, left on Crusade in 1248. Evidently,
 he was a good and faithful kind of king because he was canonized as a saint in 1297 after his death in 1271.


This time, my view of the interior is different.
Instead of noticing the eye-candy of glitter and gold leaf, I note the interactive parts of the space.
 For example, I see that the hands of saintly and not-so-saintly souls passing through these doors leave their mark, wearing away the white-painted finishes. On this side of the doors, the air is as hot and steamy as a streetcar named Desire, the sounds jazzed up and loud.

Stepping through the doors, I'm stunned by the contrasts~~cool, quiet air-conditioning  
and the distilled sound of monks singing ancient chants from what seems like balconies above.
Respect for the place and for others here is palpable,
personal rituals visible. A genuflect here, a kneeling there.
A splash of holy water and handmade signs of the cross,
A loving heart and hand lights a votive for someone needing prayers.
All is calm.

As we depart to rejoin the outside world, I look down at the well-worn, cracked marble floor
 and the first line of the jazz-band spiritual reverberates:
 We're trav'ling in the footsteps of many who've gone before.

+   +  +


jmac said...

Oh....I am chuckling so!! When I saw the name of your post, I immediately thought of our so loved New Orleans Saints...when you live in Loosiana, it's just natural to equate anything "saint" oriented to mean our football team.
How funny that your post really was about New Orleans!!! I guess I take it for granted because I visit so often but seeing others visit our area, thru your eyes, is such a joy. Just so happy to see that you loved it as much as I do!
altho, I NEVER go during any type of celebration, which is just about every weekend. I love the streets of the quarter the most when there is nothing special going on.....history, food, drink, people, jazz music.......just doesn't get any better!!

tammy j said...

i fell in love with naw'lins
in 1981.
your post was a little touch of magic and laughter and sadness. but worth the trip!
jazz and bloody marys and secret little shady gardens viewed through black curley iron gates...
i'll go back someday for sure to sweet smelly delicious beautiful naw'lins. it always reminds me of a big bosomy hot aunt in a flowered dress!
tammy j
i love your blog. thanks!

helen tilston said...

I loved your post and your poignant description of being in church and the rituals.

We are going to New Orleans next Christmas and are very much looking forward to being there

Helen xx

Jane said...

I,too, fell in love with New Orleans...many years ago. Although I have only visited the vibrant city once, it remains dear to my heart. Not only did I have the most wonderful weekend with my husband...and friends...I WALKED and WALKED...and explored, rather than go to the football game in Baton Rough (AU vs LSU). And we visited Cafe du Monde at least 4 times during our stay...The antique shops were were the restaurants. Sadly, many of my favorite places did not return after Katrina. But...I am hoping for a return trip soon.

Hanne Bente said...

Hello Becky.
Great pictures you show.
There is something special about churches that look / forografere many church.
About 14 days I'm going to honeymoon in Fur church - "my son" (papsøn) is getting married.
Wishing you a good weekend.
Hugs Hanne Bente

rosaria williams said...

Yes, New Orleans is in a class all by itself, the food, the music, the ambiance. Glad to know that it is coming back to its old glory. We spent many a night ambling the streets, from one venue to another, listening to music, dancing our nights away.

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

I love New Orleans...such soul. Your images captured it beautifully! Particularly the beignet and cafe o lait

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

I love New Orleans...such soul. Your images captured it beautifully! Particularly the beignet and cafe o lait

Anonymous said...


Don and Karen took us to Cafe du Monde for those same beignets. It's a treat one does not forget! Loved your pictures.

Love, LInda

The Silver Bunny said...

Hello, Becky! I have just discovered your blog and added it to my own list ; it is very beautiful. Oh, and I want one of these pastries. Right now !

The Silver Bunny said...

And also, I just realized I've become your 100th follower; exciting !

Beth said...

You took me on a wonderful trip of a city I have never visited, but want to.
I liked your observation of the door---shows the human side well---and then the contrast of the other side. Lovely.

By Nela said...

Un cariñoso abrazo.


Dimple said...

I spent a week in NOLA on a short term mission in 2008--was it four years ago already? Katrina left what I believe will be an indelible mark on the city and the people with whom I spoke. Is the ninth ward still as wrecked as I remember it? I think one in three buildings was in some state of demolition...

S. Etole said...

What a fun visit you have shared. So colorful, delicious and reverent.


My husband has been to this cafe several times and then came home and reproduced the delicious food for me. Sweet.

Just returned from 10 days in Seattle. Trying to catch up.

Rayanne said...

I'm new to your blog and I love your photos of the church! I'm following along...blessed to know you! Rayanne

Hanne Bente said...

Hello Becky.
Thanks for your comment on my blog.
The tree reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the tinderbox.
Maybe he got inspiration for the adventure - the tree is at Hald Manor, a place he stayed a few times and wrote adventure.
Wishing you a good day / good new week.
Hugs Hanne Bente

RuneE said...

Just one more of the places I should have been :-)

Ioana-Carmen said...

This is so sweet! what do you say about following each other?:X

Debbie said...

Great post, Becky.
Reminds me of the week I spent down there.
A place you never forget.
Thank you for sharing your pictures, and your message.

SD ~ Dawning Inspiration said...

I have that song going round and round in my mind now... lovely shots!

Jeanne Klaver said...

This has always been one of my favorite places. I loved seeing it through your eyes!

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