Valentin Tomberg, Catholic France and the Sacred Heart – More Very Personal Reflexions Part V

French peasants at prayer in the famous painting The Angelus by Jean-François Millet.

I have been writing here, a very personal series of reflexions, uncomfortably personal …

I want to start picking up the threads now and drawing to a close in the next two or three entries.

At the heart of this little series has been my own painful struggle with modernity.

The crisis of our modern materialistic, consumerist world is bad. But what can I do? What can anyone do?

For myself, I turn as I say, to what I have been given.

And Providence has given me if you like, three lamps in the darkness to which the title of this little series bears witness: Valentin Tomberg, Catholic France and the Sacred Heart.

Valentin Tomberg has guided me towards an ever more traditional Catholicism, a Catholicism my liberal ’60s head’ had resisted for so long.

As I have said, for years I could not fathom the depth of Tomberg’s conservatism. Like many other people, I was in denial of how deeply – even radically – traditional his Catholicism truly was.

But I began to understand, when Providence took me to France. There I discovered the ruins of a lost civilisation: Catholic France.

There I saw how only a few generations ago, millions of devout French had committed themselves heart and soul to a robust Christian culture in France – a culture where the Angelus regularly summoned the faithful to prayer, where priests everywhere created opportunities for the faithful to come to daily Mass, where children were still not indoctrinated in the norms of secular materialism.

But now there were only ruins of this civilisation left. The churches were usually closed rather than open – and when they were open, they were near-empty. Piety was gone; materialism had triumphed.

Allow me to illustrate, dear Reader, by quoting from something I have said elsewhere at this site about ‘the lost civilisation’ of Catholic France:

Like the Pyramids along the Nile 

Like the Sphinx …

These are things I have remarked to myself, privately till now, in these travels through France.

For how often it has felt like I behold the relics of a long-lost civilisation.

True, many of these weather-beaten crucifixes along the roads are barely a century old.

These worn, fading statues of Our Lady are also relatively recent…

Is my analogy not somewhat excessive then?

To compare such monuments to the remains of a civilisation from three thousand years ago?

I do not know.

Even if only one or two hundred years separate Catholic France from modern Republican France, it seems to me that the French who erected these signs of love are so very, very remote from the French of today.

I find a rural church – one of the more beautiful I have seen in my life, in fact.

It is even OPEN, thank God.

It was only erected in 1895, but one can feel that vast, gaping chasm which separates the French of today from those who built this glorious edifice.

One can feel it particularly as one reads the inscription I see placed there above the door:

To Jesus in the Host

Their King, Their Saviour, their adored host

The inhabitants of Vaylats, making with joy all the necessary sacrifices, have erected this church as a humble monument of their faith, their religion and their love.

Again this is 1895. Not the Middle Ages …

But the French who sacrificed for this church are almost beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of their descendants.

I tried to understand what had happened to this lost Catholic France. And the more I studied French history, the more I realised that Catholic France had been eradicated by vicious – truly vicious – secularising forces.

Yes, the more I have read the history of Catholic France, the more my breath has been taken away by the sheer amount of aggression deployed by the French State against the Church in France.

And the more I studied that forgotten history – no that buried history, buried by those who want us to forget! – the more I understood Tomberg’s traditionalism.

This is to say, the more I saw that Tomberg’s traditionalism was rooted in his acute awareness of the danger to Christianity posed by subversive revolutionary currents.

Now in the first part of this series, we already noted Tomberg alarm regarding ‘the tidal wave of materialism’ of the Twentieth Century. And what would he make of the Twenty-First Century?! (Perhaps it is better to ask this question in the present tense: what does he make of it?)

And we quoted Tomberg saying:

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 when I read Tomberg’s Catholic legal works, I began to understand his sweeping condemnation of the French Revolution. For the link between the smothering of the soul and the Revolution became ever more vivid.

In the past my ‘liberal head’ had protested. Did not the French Revolution declare human rights? Did it not bring good things, as well as bad? Why is Valentin Tomberg so completely and categorically ‘black and white’ about this?

At any rate, I said above that Providence gave me three lamps in the darkness. Having said a little now of Tomberg and Catholic France, I should indicate something as to the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For Providence also brought me to Paray-le-Monial in France, birthplace of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, which then spread like wildfire across the Catholic world (even while it was impeded in the Anglosphere).

There praying by the relics of the Saints of the Sacred Heart, St Margaret Mary and St Claude La Colombiere, so, so much came into focus – like never before.

Those times of praying and suffering in Paray gave birth to so much …

This website dedicated to the Cor Jesu Sacratissimum could never have happened without that Providential suffering in Paray-le-Monial.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus …  so much more I need to say, in time, as to how this relates to the other two lamps.

For now, let me simply re-emphasise that Providential suffering in Paray gave birth to my understanding of Valentin Tomberg’s very dark view of Revolution.

This pertains to the French Revolution of 1789 and all the similar revolutions which followed and it pertains to the 1960s revolution.

In the last weblog, we quoted Tomberg’s striking appraisal of Charles de Gaulle and Paul VI in terms of that 1960s revolution and we shall have more to say …

To be Continued  – though not necessarily immediately. (Other entries may come first.)

Books at Amazon related to this Series:

The books below – most of which are reviewed at this site – have been most fruitful to me in terms of the issues here. You can also find nearly all of them in our Amazon UK store.

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