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. 11
It was a tremendous privilege and grace to be able to visit the Vendée – the home of the French Counter-Revolution. And also the home of a terrible genocide.
For when the French Counter-Revolution broke out, how the French Revolutionaries retaliated! A scorched earth policy was adopted, whereby whole villages were razed to the ground. By some accounts, as many as 300,000 men, women and children were massacred – to ‘protect’ the new secular values of the French state.
This was my second trip to the Vendée and I have been pondering its lessons ever since . . .
From 2010—Ch.11: The Vendée, Home to a Counter-Revolution
Recently, we have driven in a hurry up through the French Southwest.
But here, here, it is necessary to stop a moment and pause.
For here is a France so very different from the rest.
Here is the France of the Counter-Revolution, where peasants revolted to defend their faith, to defend the monarchy.
And one can register the echoes of this Other France still resounding here.
I meet an old man. One his right forearm is tattooed – large and prominently – the Cross.
And is that the Blessed Virgin on the other forearm?
He indicates that such things were still common in his Vendée youth.
An old lady tells me how all the churches were completely full here once. No-one missed the Holy Mass.
Another old man: when he says the word “Republique” it is as though he SPITS it out in anger…
This Republic, celebrated all across the land …
This Republic, I am sure this old man was raised in a culture, where few indeed had yet forgotten all that the Republic laid waste to.
Memory is long here in France.
Even the comic-books here are about the past epochs of France. So different to the fantastic, futuristic comics of my Anglophone youth.
Yes, memory is long in these parts. And here in the West of France, one finds the honoured tombs of the Martyrs of the Revolution, murdered out of hatred for the faith.
The memorials say things like that.
Here in this land, where men took up arms to save the soul of France from the Revolutionary horror.
And the village churches here are enormous, of a greater proportion to their surroundings than any I have ever seen.
And like in Ireland, they frequently hail not from the Middle Ages, but the Nineteenth Century.
In Ireland, the Anglican Church took over all the medieval churches and forbid the dominant Catholic population to build new ones.
But when Catholic Emancipation was completed in 1829, the Irish covered their Blessed Island with Catholic Churches.
Oddly, the Vendée feels a little like Catholic Ireland.
In the Nineteenth Century, it had the same sort of piety.
And it built the same style of churches, Nineteenth Century neo-gothic.
Either because the bloody terrible suppression of the Counter-Revolution had demolished the old churches …
Or because the pious legions demanded much bigger churches than had previously existed.
The Vendée …
How you were mocked by Republican France!
Your inhabitants were called “backward” and even compared to the missing link.
Not unlike the way many “superior and cultured souls” treated the Irish …
Ireland … The Vendée …
How deeply grateful I feel for your centuries of devotion and piety.
How deeply grateful I am for the alternative you forged to dry, dessicated secular materialism.
How deeply grateful I am for the privilege of having walked upon your humble, hallowed soil …
To Be Continued …
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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