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. 13
Here I just note that we had arrived in Lourdes, after crossing over the Spanish border. At that point we had been living in various places in France and Spain for over four years. And the personal reflections that follow do not simply arise from my time Lourdes—they bear witness to my entire time in France, a time where I had visited many other sacred sites such as Paray-le-Monial which changed my life forever.
At the same time, I was horrified by French secularism and materialism . . . and the sense of being in the desolate ruins of once-great Catholic France.
We were preparing to relocate to Britain at this point, a difficult prospect, but with the hope of eventually moving to beloved Ireland, which by the grace of God has now happened.
And it all grist for the mill—and the direction my future work—books, videos and more—will take.
From 2010—Chapter Thirteen: Our Lady of Pontmain
Fragments from a sad farewell to Notre Dame …
Leaving France, secular France but before we go, two further monuments to a different vision:
A vision of a very different France.
A France called for by Our Lady.
Again and again, Our Lady appeared in France after the Revolution: in Paris, in Lourdes, in La Salette.
And often weeping, she appeared.
It was only with the Nineteenth Century, that the Vatican began to authenticate these great Apparitions.
But just before this new epoch of Vatican enquiry and investigation, Our Lady also appeared.
Our Lady appeared just at the very point of the Revolution.
She was seen in the Greater Vendée region of the French Counter Revolution.
Our Lady gave comfort and inspiration to those whose Church and Faith were under terrible attack.
And by happy Providence, our route takes us directly by that very spot.
The Revolutionaries had destroyed the little rural church of Notre Dame de Charité.
The walls came down. Only the altar remained.
But then amidst the ruins, Our Lady began to appear on the table of the Sacrifice.
Unlike the sites of the later, great authenticated French apparitions, there is little outwardly to recall Our Lady at this site today.
A small church has been rebuilt, but there is no great basilica. There have been few pilgrims, at least in recent times.
But still there is a strange, haunting and beautiful quality to this land. This is my second pilgrimage here.
I loved it then. I love it now.
But alas, we cannot tarry. It is now back into that sea of secular France, before crossing with the boat into secular Britain. But before we leave there remains on our route, one last great Catholic Island in this dry secular sea.
I am so very thankful. We are visiting Pontmain!
The last of the four great Marian Apparitions in Nineteenth Century France.
That is to say, after 1830 in Paris in the Rue du Bac, after La Salette and Lourdes in 1846 and 1858, Our Lady hallowed French soil once again in 1871.
Our Lady appeared to children yet again.
Our Lady appeared in a frosty night sky looking sad.
Close to Her Immaculate Heart, She held a red crucifix, with the body of Jesus, all the colour of arterial blood.
Blood. Blood. In Loublande, Claire Ferchaud had also seen His Blood pouring forth.
This journey has been a call to meditate on His Precious Blood.
But to return now to His Blessed Mother.
In La Salette, tears she wept. In Lourdes, she cried:
“Penitence! Penitence! Penitence!”
In all of these, the message is prayer.
The mournful message once again is here, but there is also hope :
“But pray my children. God will soon answer you. My Son allows himself to be moved.”
Unlike Notre Dame de Charité, there is a grand ecclesiastical edifice here. Which soars with Gothic beauty and great Rose windows above the little village.
Unlike Lourdes, development has done nothing to ruin this place.
Indeed, this is one pilgrimage site I have seen, where it feels as though it grew tastefully with the influx of pilgrims that would come …
It really is a very idyllic and beautiful French village, dominated by this basilica and all the statues and images of Our Lady with that blood red crucifix.
There are zany modern Masses too – unsurprisingly. For the French Novus Ordo strikes me as often unusually bad.
A dying desperate Church in a dying, desperate bid for popularity?
I do not know. But these Masses here are particularly hard to bear.
But still I feel Our Lady here, urging me to prayer.
I am so grateful to be once last time in a Catholic Islandand Refuge.
Soon, I will be in secular Britain, in a land deprived of the Catholic Faith for centuries.
A land where there is nothing like the Rue du Bac in Paris, nothing like the Sacré Coeur there, atop Montmartre either …
There is no La Salette, no Lourdes, no Pontmain.
There is no Paray-le-Monial, nor is there a Loublande that I know of …
In Catholic France, after the Reformation there would be continued reports of Apparitions of Our Lady and Our Lord.
Many of these would change the face of Tridentine Catholicism.
Now I must venture to a land deprived of all of this.
A land to which I belong: by parentage, rearing and citizenship, if not by birth.
A land where the Catholic Mystery is often nigh-invisible.
A land where I could spend fifteen years of my life completely unconscious of the Catholic Mystery.
A land where countless are the numbers of those who, unconscious of the Mysteries of the Church, turn to the mysteries of the New Age.
Had I really known the Mystery of the Church, would I have ever turned to Findhorn?
The question is rhetorical.
Britain: I confess that your secular, de-Catholicised ground seems to me the most fertile soil of all for the New Age movement.
If any one nation were to become the capital of the New Age Movement, it would be you, I think.
Returning is not a happy prospect, but no doubt Our Lord has Providential Designs …
These French Fragments are now concluded.
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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