Series Introduction 2023:
Here is the start of a strange series of posts that appeared at this website in 2010. These entries chronicle my reflections travelling the length of France in a van with my wife Kim—beginning with Lourdes in the South and moving slowly over eight weeks to Pontmain in the North, close to a thousand miles in all. At the time, we were relocating to Britain, but with the hope of eventually returning to Ireland.
This series remains precious to my heart—as my experiences on this trip in hallowed sites like Lourdes, Pontmain and the Vendée proved seminal for my work ever since. Whether these posts will speak to anyone else, though, is a moot point. They are deeply personal, sometimes to the point of being cryptic.
For that reason, I now offer (below) a short, explanatory foreword to each individual post, just in case anyone does care to enter with me into this intimate world of meaning for me.
Likewise, these links are provided to help navigate through this series.
- Chapter 1: France and Lourdes
- Chapter 2: On France and Ireland
- Chapter 3: Our Lady Calls
- Chapter 4: Josephin Péladan and Charles A. Coulombe
- Chapter 5: Recalling Ireland
- Chapter 6: The Enduring Presence of Catholic France
- Chapter 7: Freemasonry and France
- Chapter 8: Liberal No More
- Chapter 9: Liberal Catholicism, Like a Sieve
- Chapter 10: Pyramids on the Nile
- Chapter 11: The Vendée – Home to a Counter-Revolution
- Chapter 12: O Claire Ferchaud!
- Chapter 13: Our Lady of Pontmain
2023 Introduction to Ch. 8
What can I say? We are still moving northward in the van, my wife Kim and myself, after passing through Lourdes, Toulouse, Montauban and Perigueux and through the desolate ruins of once-great Catholic France.
But the desolation has helped create resolution, resolution after years of living in France (and not just these weeks on the road) as well as a deep relief in my soul that, after years of indecision, I am no longer a liberal Catholic.
For the tragedy before my eyes has washed away illusion . . .
From 2010—Chapter Eight: Liberal, No More …
More fragments. Very personal:
Travelling through France.
So very hard to find a daily Mass.
But here appears to me an opportunity.
Yet another half-dead convent – the second half-dead convent we have found like this.
The aged sisters dressed as to be nigh-indistinguishable from the non-religious state.
No young at all.
Am I being condemnatory to say this is how it appears to me?
Perhaps I am deceived, but if there is much living inspiration in these places, it is hard for me to detect.
But – there is still daily Mass here.
The first convent we found like this will be gone very soon, I imagine.
But this one serves as an ‘inn’ it seems, on the way to Compostela.
And due to that fact, it has not yet closed down. This one might be kept on ‘life support’ just a little longer.
I am grateful indeed to find Mass here, but my heavy heart is grieving.
And I am glad to FEEL this heaviness.
Years ago, as a more liberal Catholic, my heart was more insensate to scenes like this – the slow death of the Church …
Back then, I thought stupid things like:
‘Perhaps it isn’t so bad, after all.
Perhaps the modern world demands a modern spirituality: New forms, not old wineskins.
Perhaps these old religious houses do not matter that much, really …’
In those days, I did not go to Holy Mass daily.
Sometimes, I missed the Sunday obligation too.
I was not HUNGRY then, as I am hungry now, for the Catholic Mystery.
I was still too much like a New Ager – who just happened to have converted. Confimed in the Catholic Church, that is, but not fully converted.
It took me years to feel the PRECIOUSNESS of this.
It took years for my doubting mind to be convinced of the sheer tragedy of losing all of this.
It took years to begin to FEEL as much as I do now.
Thank God, I feel. Or at least begin to feel.
Thank God, my heart begins to feel, if just a very, very little, a little more like Yours must feel, Lord.
Thank God it begins to become pierced. – pierced by the tragedy of all of this and therefore more ready to implore:
“What must be DONE, O Lord?”
Yes more ready to implore and more committed to the responses that come in prayer as I implore …
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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