Saint-Louis d’Antin is a living parish, a place of contemplation, formation and prayer. It is one of the busiest churches in Paris.
No matter what time you go, you’re never alone Saint-Louis d’Antin, parish located not far from Saint-Lazare station. You can enter via rue du Havre or rue Caumartin, in a district rich in shops and offices. The contrast between the bustle outside and the tranquility found inside the church between two masses is striking.
The atmosphere is conducive to contemplation, as confirmed by Joséphine, who works in a local company and goes there regularly during her lunch break: “I often come to drop off my joys and my sorrows. Often, I come to deposit my joys and my sorrows with Jesus in the middle of my working day. It can only take 10 minutes. But I am always happy to take this spiritual break, to reconnect with God in this beautiful and peaceful place.
A visit to Saint-Louis is a good way to start my day, to offer it to God. There is no better place to pray than in a church!
As for Charlotte, a student in a nearby high school, she goes there once or twice a week before going to class. “A visit to Saint-Louis is a good way to start my day, to offer it to God. There is no better place to pray than in a church! Even if this year has been difficult at times, since I have to prepare for exams, it is essential for me to come here to pray or attend mass during the week. She also mentions one of the side chapels that she is particularly fond of: the one with the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, which measures less than 50 centimeters. Devotion to this small statue which embodies the childhood of Christ spread throughout Europe in the 19th century. For Charlotte, “it’s a way of remembering the simplicity and purity of the child Jesus.” And she’s not the only one to think so, since this little chapel is the busiest in the church.
Masses and confessions in abundance
Seven masses are celebrated in Saint-Louis every day on weekdays and five masses are offered on weekends. Father Antoine Devienne is entering his fourth year as pastor of Saint-Louis d’Antin. His parish is a mixture of regulars and those who come especially for confessions or the many masses. “They know they will find a priest. It is the parish of Paris where there are the most confessions, and for a long time. That’s what affects them,” he explains. And for good reason, he spends about 14 hours a week in confession. “This continuous priestly presence attracts the faithful. Some even come to thank the priests for being there and “doing what they do”.
Defined by its parish priest as a “place of spiritual accompaniment”, the Saint-Louis d’Antin church is not a traditional parish. There are few baptisms and funerals, and no weddings. It functions more like a sanctuary than a traditional parish. “We want to develop this appeal that is unique to the sanctuary.” At the end of the 1950s, the territory of the parish — which had existed since 1802 — was reduced to less than a thousand inhabitants. Today, the ratio of priests per inhabitant is gigantic in Saint-Louis! Eight priests, including a student priest, keep this dynamic parish alive.
During the 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 quarantines, the transit lines that built the parish community had become an obstacle to parish outreach. “The impact of COVID on our parish life has been very strong, since the confinements have prevented 95% of people from going to church, which has therefore been closed for a time”, explains the priest, who estimates that in 2022 the population is still worried. “I see it in the wearing of a mask in church: although it has not been compulsory for several weeks, one in three parishioners wears it.”
A rich cultural life
The Bernanos Center, created in the parish in 1994, which offers cultural activities for all, is restarting. Play — right now Polyeucte de Corneille is played — film screenings, concerts, conferences are all events of Christian inspiration, but which reach an audience that goes far beyond practicing Catholics. According to Father Devienne, there is a certain difficulty in bringing the two populations together, those who go to mass and those who go to the Bernanos Center. His wish is precisely to encourage more exchanges between these two communities.
Amusing detail: a little over 150 years ago, in August 1871, Marcel Proust was baptized in Saint-Louis-d’Antin. But in this church, time is not wasted, nor a fortiori found. He is stretched. The dynamism of the organization of confessions and the Eucharist, its long opening hours make it a unique place in Paris. It is a beacon of prayer in the hustle and bustle of the Chaussée d’Antin.