Valentin Tomberg, Catholic France and the Sacred Heart

Hieron du Val d'Or
Centre for the Hieron du Val d’Or – ‘to Christ the King’ – (‘Au Christ Roi’ above the door in French). Though the Hieron no longer exists, the building remains open as a Eucharistic Museum. Courtesy of Croquant (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

2023: Here is the first post from an unfinished, strangely and embarrassingly personal five-part series from 2012 concerned with Valentin Tomberg, France and my time living in France. After spending nearly all my life in Britain and America, this period profoundly opened my eyes to Catholicism—and the very un-British and un-American thinking of Valentin Tomberg, a Russian who chose to write in French . . .

To navigate through these odd entries:

Recently, I re-opened this weblog with a highly personal approach—one I feel less than completely comfortable with. Still, I mentioned that I had written some further entries in the same vein – which had erupted from me quite suddenly – and comfortable or not, I begin presenting them …

The burning question that I am with is:

What can I do?

What can I do in a world, where Christianity is being buried, materialism ascends and consumerism destroys the biosphere? What can I contribute to addressing the enormous demands of our age?

And the answer that comes back is work with what I have. And what do I have?

I have, I fancy, ability to communicate and something to communicate.

As I said before, that ‘something’ involves the life experience of having lived in Ireland, France and Spain.

All three of these countries have been home to Catholic cultures that were once very, very different to the America and England I grew up in.

And all three have been pervaded by the spirituality of His Sacred Heart in ways that America and England never were.

For when the Revelation of His Most Sacred Heart began in Paray-le-Monial in 1673, it could easily spread out to the Catholic countries. Whereas by contrast, it was impeded in England and her colonies.

Ninety-Eight Seconds on Tomberg—Article Continues Below

Now, as Valentin Tomberg wrote in the final pages of his final writings just before his death:

There have been (and still are) times in Europe and elsewhere during which for whole nations the life of the soul as such has been (and still is) in grave danger, having been smothered and reduced to a minimum.

This holds not only with respect to the tidal wave of materialism that has flooded across the world in this century, but also for the outpouring of “intellectual enlightenment” during the age of rationalism in the eighteenth century which paved the way for materialism.

At that time the danger facing the human soul was so great that, in order to avert it, a special intervention from heaven proved necessary as a preventive measure.

This took place during the second half of the seventeenth century. It was then that the revelation of the most sacred heart of Jesus occurred.

This led to the cult of devotion to the most sacred heart of Jesus which spread rapidly in Catholic countries and took root there. Devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus was to save the soul of humanity.[Emphasis mine]

Valentin Tomberg, Covenant of the Heart, p.255.

There is more regarding what Tomberg says of this special intervention from heaven here.

My point now has more to do with the fact that this ‘special intervention from heaven … during the second half of the seventeenth century’ happened at Paray-le-Monial in France.

Sacred Heart-Catholic France
Iconography from Catholic France

For Paray-le-Monial lies at the very centre of all my life-transforming years in Catholic Ireland, Catholic Spain and once Catholic France.

I spent some of the most agonised times of life in Paray, in fear for myself and in fear for a loved one who needed my protection and who—against all apparent odds, but by the grace of God—received protection.

Suffering focuses the mind on what matters most.

And the graces found in the profound silence of Paray helped me more than I can ever say.

Such tremendous silence, tremendous depth to be found in Paray.

Paray … it is not simply the place that Saint Margaret Mary beheld his Sacred Heart during the second half of the 1600s.

Paray is also the site of what came after: as countless monks, nuns, priests and devout laity came to the town. So many initiatives happened then, new religious houses, churches – as well as the foundation of the mysterious Hieron du Val d’Or, which appears to have been a rather hermetic Catholic grouping dedicated to combatting Masonry in France.

Today, the major achievement the Hieron is recognised for lies in instigating the Feast of Christ the King.

But there is more, still more to Paray. For example, one finds round the clock Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament there – which only fosters still further the richness of the silence of Paray.

Paray is also where I personally registered the call of Valentin Tomberg far more deeply.

Tomberg: through his inspiration, I had come into the Church. However like many who come to Tomberg, in the Anglophone world especially, I could never come to grips with how conservative, how traditional Tomberg’s Catholicism really was. I was in denial for years.

Suffering in the profound silence of Paray-le-Monial helped me face the truth at last.

Other graces helped, as well. There was a dream where the figure of Tomberg appeared and warned me not to succumb to the temptation of a ’60’s head’ …

A ’60’s head’ – how many of us simply now accept the values of the 1960s wholesale?

A memory may illustrate what I mean by this: An American friend of mine are talking. And I object to something in the media. I cannot recall what it was exactly, but I fancy it was at least somewhat sexually gratuitous. My friend employed that well-worn cliche: ‘Well. that’s the price you pay for free speech’.

But this is a ’60’s head’ talking!

Western people in the 1940s and 1950s believed in free speech, too. But something as ‘tame’ today as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover was still illegal then. No-one back then thought that banning (even literary) portrayals of intimate sexuality contravened free speech. And this is to say nothing of banning the wholly unliterary and completely gratuitous!

For the pre-1960’s mind, it was near-universally accepted that freedom of speech did not include the ‘right’ to issue the horrific gorefests and pornography that have spewed forth since the 1960s. It did not include such a ‘right’, anymore than it includes shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded arena, where people may be stampeded and smothered. (We will come back once more to that word ‘smothered’).

But so many of us, who are like the person I used to be – with my vaguely liberal and well-meaning ’60’s head’ – just think like my American friend.

Yet this dream warned me of the temptation of a ’60’s head’.

And again, shortly before he died, the real-life Valentin Tomberg warned that:

For whole nations the life of the soul as such has been (and still is) in grave danger, having been smothered and reduced to a minimum.

And in private correspondence written in the 1960s, Valentin Tomberg made clear what he thought of the mentality that emerged at that time.

Video from Our YouTube Channel—Article Continues Below

Meanwhile for myself too, I look out upon the growing world materialism, the rise of the New Age and I feel ‘grave danger’, the soul of the West being smothered.

To Navigate through these Odd Entries:

My Own Books Indebted to Tomberg—Click to See on Amazon
Michael Martin-Roger Buck
Books from Roger Buck

Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck

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2 responses to “Valentin Tomberg, Catholic France and the Sacred Heart”

  1. Materlaeta Avatar


    First of all, thank you for this wonderful website that I found through the FE forum we are both a part of!

    You put into words so many things that I ponder as well. I, too, wonder what I am supposed to do in this day and age, with all that is happening here in America and our current descent into tyranny. Do I pray and fast, do I demonstrate? What is God asking of me here and now? For now, I concentrate on learning more and more about traditional Catholicism and try to put it into practice in my life and explain it the best I can to my children, hopefully preparing them for the future.

    I look at America and am worried about it’s future. As you have said here before – it never went through and orthodox stage in it’s development. The roots of protestantism and the enlightenment are obvious for those who take the time to read and study. But trying to discuss it with anyone other than a small handful of people will garner you blank stares at best or a shoutfest at the worst. There is a whole new way I have had to learn to think as a traditional Catholic and it is completely incomprehensible to the average Catholic, let alone the average, poorly educated American.

    So where does that leave me?

    I am open to any suggestions and ideas for reading, how to approach people, how to open topics and have discussions,etc. At this point, I will welcome any and all ideas.


    1. roger Avatar


      Thank you for your kind words.

      My first response to you may sound so obvious as to be trite. But it concerns something too profound to be trite.

      I rejoice in what you will be bringing to your children. It is very, very very disturbing what children are subject to these days. And the impression I have from reading a few of your comments at the forum you mention brings me joy. Your children I am sure are very, very, very fortunate indeed!

      Beyond that, the question you raise is so deep and wide -ranging and as I say, one’s own individual biography has so much to say in regard to it.

      I find myself with so many aspects, which for me are broader and more wide-ranging than what is often invoked at that forum.

      But for myself. I certainly see a need for dialogue with the ‘average Catholic’ as you put it – which in your own case, I guess means the average American Catholic.

      And as you indicate, that average American Catholic is almost inevitably steeped – without knowing it – in a Reformation/Enlightenment mindset.

      Without knowing it is the key here.

      Whereas it is impossible to convey all that you want to convey in a single conversation, if you can charitably convey just a little glimmer of awareness that the way things are being viewed is really quite limited to America – that will help.

      Just little glimmers of awareness – baby steps – in a process that realistically cannot happen overnight.

      In many of my New Age posts here at the site, I indicate that this is first baby step I try to take with New Agers: What you think is your universal, transcendent spiritual perspective is really very bound to your own culture.

      I try to point this gently out, not getting into an impossible argument, but just nudges that may help to point out that New Age beliefs are very rooted in Anglophone often WASP post-60’s values and are hardly universal.

      (In other ways, they are rooted in the East – but again this is not universal.)

      Of course, what I say now is related to the New Age given that my own biography means I have particular responsibility towards New Agers, given that I know their language, concepts well … (Which is also why I post some of the apparently strange things that I do at this site.)

      I doubt very much that relating to New Agers is part of your calling. (And you may wish to count yourself fortunate ;- ) !)

      But the principle remains the same with the average American Catholics you are in contact with.

      Now I am going to give you a link in a moment to a long piece at this site, which might trouble you.

      It would trouble a lot of folk at the forum above, given the person I recommend reading.

      Some of the people at that site would struggle to hold their last meal down …

      I said I would give you the link in a moment …

      Forgive me Materlaeta, but you just might be so shocked by the person that I am referring to, that I am going to ask you to listen to a relevant quote from him first:

      “Cold War politics made temporary bedfellows out of the Vatican and the US, and what is re-emerging now is the caution and reluctance that have always characterized Vatican attitudes about America.

      In other words, perhaps [the cold war] alliance … was [an] aberration … From this point of view, the clash of cultures most exacerbated by the Iraq War may not be between Christianity and Islam, but between the Holy See and the United States [My italics!].

      The war [helped to suggest] to Vatican observers that the ghost of John Calvin is alive and well in American culture …

      The deepest thinkers in the Vatican have always harbored their doubts about the United States, seeing it as a culture forged by Calvinism and hostile to a genuinely Catholic ethos … [my emphasis]

      One archbishop put it this way: ‘Americans have a bad combination of youth, wealth, power, isolation and very little serious Catholic intellectual tradition …

      Key Vatican officials … have long worried about aspects of American society – its exaggerated individualism, its hyperconsumer spirit, its relegation of religion to the private sphere, its Calvinist ethos.

      A fortiori, they worry about a world in which America is in an unfettered position to impose this set of cultural values on everyone else.

      The Calvinist concepts of the total depravity of the human condition, the unconditional election of God’s favoured, and the manifestation of election through earthly success, all seem to play a powerful role in shaping American cultural psychology.”

      Is this a traditional or even conservative Catholic speaking?

      Not at all! I think of him as pretty liberal.

      I disagree with him on countless things.

      I think the newspaper he works for is an AMERICAN TRAGEDY …

      Why am I recommending him to people?

      Because I perceive him to be honest, truly decent and some of the things he’s writing honestly strike me as near-angelic …

      And he’s really getting at this very point: the average American Catholic finds it really, really hard to understand even the post Vatican II Catholicism prevalent in today’s Vatican – let alone Catholic traditionalism!

      And for all his liberal views that I do not share, for all the American Tragedy of the newspaper he works for, he understands a great deal about the art of really listening to people with very different views to one’s own

      Before giving you the link Materlaeta, I really want to thank you again for commenting. I know from Google Analytics people read this blog regularly, but few indeed say anything.

      I wonder sometimes if they are aghast and perhaps my link here will make you aghast: