There I was in France, during some of the hardest times of my entire life.
But Grace had afforded Kim and myself astonishing opportunity – the opportunity to both regularly visit and remain – sometimes for weeks – in the most extraordinary place I ever found in France and indeed in all the world: Paray-le-Monial.
In Paray, two utterly extraordinary chapels can be found. One is the chapel of the Apparitions of His Most Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary and the other chapel contains the relics of St Claude La Colombière, her Jesuit confessor.
St Claude …
Day after day in prayer and silent contemplation in both chapels – and I came to see that the quality of my contemplation was different in each one.
In the chapel of the Apparition, my heart wept and opened – but I could not focus as clearly there, as I could in the stillness beside the relics of St Claude.
In his chapel, praying by his relics, my mind seemed regularly keener, more alert. Regularly, the quality of prayer was different there.
Were you helping me, St Claude?
For me, there can be little question of this.
Next to your relics, I was trying to face some very difficult things, difficult decisions …
What was I really doing here? How and why had I been led to Paray in such difficult circumstances? What was Providence trying to show me?
Other things weighed on my soul, too intimate to name in this public space.
And running through it all was the enormous personal impact of Valentin Tomberg on my life – Tomberg whose writings had led me out of the New Age and into the Catholic Church.
Tomberg: that Russian who had deliberately written in French, even after fifteen years of living in England and whose writings I would realise ever more vividly were linked to the French Counter Revolutionary Catholic tradition, beginning with Joseph De Maistre.
Paray-le-Monial had been a very special centre for Counter Revolutionary France, deeply attached to it as it was to the Sacred Heart.
This is why Counter Revolutionary France wanted to add His Most Sacred Heart to the French Flag.
These things and many more passed through my soul during those many weeks in Paray, astonishing Paray …
And for whatever reason, Providence had brought me to Paray, I knew I had to more deeply confront certain matters.
These things had to do not only with Tomberg, his French inspiration, but to the very deeply traditional Catholicism Tomberg was pointing to.
As I said before, I had had such problems with Tomberg’s conservatism. But in Paray it was no longer possible to deny it.
And in France, as I have said, I would have a striking dream of Valentin Tomberg, where the dream-figure of Tomberg warned me not to succumb to a ’60’s head’. The dream actually came later than my time in Paray, but it was clearly related to the processes that had happened in that incredible place.
The dream would make still more sense, when years later I would find the correspondence of the actual flesh and blood Tomberg living in the 1960’s – as opposed to my dream image of Tomberg.
Next time, we shall quote from that correspondence about 1968, De Gaulle and Pope Paul VI and how Tomberg saw they expressed the ‘Father Principle’ as he looked out upon the era and expressed his concern that:
‘The inclination to see and judge clearly is vanishing … A drunken anger has suddenly spread everywhere.’
To be Continued …
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Prints, Posters, Imagery and More
The world is awash with materialistic imagery, designed to stimulate consumer desire. Yet once, Christendom was awash with imagery of the Christian Mystery. Whatever can redress this imbalance is most needed. With such thoughts, we present this small selection also available from Amazon: