The Lost Piety of Catholic France—Paray-le-Monial and More . . .

Altar to the Sacred Heart, St Pierre de Soulan, Ariege, France.
Altar to the Sacred Heart, St Pierre de Soulan, Ariege, France.

For years, I have been grieving the Lost Piety of Catholic France.

Truly, the title of this entry is euphemistic. Because when one knows the history of post-revolution Catholic France and when one has faith, it is hard to avoid stronger titles, such as the Destroyed or Murdered Piety of Catholic France.

Still, I let the title stand . . .

Catholic France, Catholic Ireland – both are particular sources of inspiration for this webproject. For Providence led Kim and myself to life-changing periods in both the devastated landscape of the former and the severely battered, but not yet fully obliterated, territory of the other.

Yes, they are particular foci of inspiration for our efforts, which in time I want to unpack much further.

Catholic France – Kim and I surveyed this desolate land, whilst living there for more than two years.

Such desolation . . .

And yet we could still see the power and beauty of what had once lived there, in places like Lourdes, La Salette and most of all Paray-le-Monial.

Paray-le-Monial, where Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary in 1673 and began to reveal His Sacred Heart, burning like the sun. Paray-le-Monial from which spread to the entire Catholic World the Cult of the Sacred Heart.

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O Catholic France!

Paray-le-Monial, which after the 1789 Revolution had ravaged the Faith and massacred Catholics – priests, nobility and peasants alike, became a particular centre of resistance to the Republican movement, perhaps THE centre of resistance.

Paray-le-Monial - dome
Paray-le-Monial – dome of the Sacred Heart

And Paray-le-Monial where unlike anywhere else on Earth, I could feel His Sacred Heart. I spent days in Paray with some of the greater suffering of my life. And there I felt held, held and bathed in His Love.

Then we would drive away and leave that Holy Place and the difference would be palpable.

Yes it is clear to me that something of immense importance for the world happened in this Holy Place. And that centuries after as monks, nuns and laity came the memory was held. The memory was held in countless Masses and Rosaries and Processions …

Now, such Masses and Rosaries and Processions were once very, very common right across France and my heart weeps for that by which this precious piety has been replaced.

But Paray! Paray is one of the very few places in France where one can still feel the Piety of Catholic France …

Now I recently googled both “dechristianisation” and “wikipedia” and this was the first paragraph of the first page I came to:

The Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies, conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical Laïcité movement. The goal of the campaign was the destruction of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself. There has been much scholarly debate over whether the movement was popularly motivated or something forced upon the people by those in power.

Well, this appears at least to be a neutral sounding paragraph from Wikipedia.

But I will name my own perspective clearly.

My experience of the ravaged world of Catholic France, my study of her history places me firmly in the camp of those who believe that:

The goal of the campaign … the destruction of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself … was … something forced upon the people by those in power.

And that it continued right through the next one-hundred and twenty or so years after the Revolution. Less bloodily, but nonetheless very determinedly.

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My life, my writings are about seeing this thing: that that which we call Secularism speaks of no neutral ground, left over after belief and practice fell naturally away, as is popularly supposed in many circles and as proponents of a secular ideology would like us to believe.

No, the ground was in many cases razed and Secularism was an artifice built on ground where in France particularly, gallons of blood were spilt.

The process was somewhat gentler elsewhere. Still, as I have recently indicated in my review of Charles A. Coulombe´s Puritan´s Empire, there is much to indicate everywhere the efforts towards clearing the ground – Dechristianisation and building afresh.

Building a new world wherein testimony to the Faith – e.g. a public crucifix – is seen as “imposing”, but a million capitalist advertisements explicitly calculated to convert people to materialistic desire are simply “freedom of speech” …

Now, I am not in agreement with Charles A. Coulombe in certain respects, but he has many important things to tell us, as he stands staunchly for the world that was razed.

Another writer I am not fully in agreement with also stands staunchly for the world that was razed. On the web, he is Brantigny and you will find if you are interested an archive of many writings here documenting la Vraie France … the true France, as the Catholics of the nineteenth century began to call her.

I have found very much of value in his writings calling us to memory of that which was literally exterminated in some cases, insidiously and subtly overcome in others. And I also want to warmly thank the author for the recognition he recently gave to this site.

Catholic France, eldest daughter of the Church, birthplace of the Cult of the Sacred Heart, how your inspiration moves this site!

Catholic France, your inspiration works silently in me, always. But recently it was stirred to greater livingness, watching again The Song of Bernadette, reading Brantigny and moved, moved more than I can say, kneeling at a Requiem Mass for the murdered king, His Majesty Louis XVI, kneeling and beholding the black cape of the priest with his back turned, kneeling and beholding an altar draped in black with crosses of gold …

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