16 June 2008

La messe traditionelle à Paris

For the first time in decades, Mass in the extraordinary form will be held at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday, June 17th, at 7:30 p.m. If you happen to be in Paris, this is not to be missed!

Pour la première fois depuis quelques décennies, la messe solennelle selon la forme extraordinaire du rite romain sera célébrée dans l’église Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris le mardi 17 juin à 19 h 30. Si vous êtes à Paris, c'est un évènement à ne pas manquer !

15 June 2008


Nightly Marian procession in front of the Basilica

The crown jewel of our pilgrimages, we spent several days in Lourdes last week before preparing to return to the States. More photos and commentary to follow in the busy weeks to come... (Mais soyez patient ; nous serons très occupés avec notre déménagement.)

05 June 2008

Les Buissonets

Lisieux Part I

Before marriage, Louis Martin and Zélie Guerin attempted the religious life—Louis with the canons of St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps, and Zélie with the Daughters of Charity. Both were rejected. Louis was told he should complete his studies, and in Zélie’s case, the Mother Superior told her without hesitation that such was not God’s will. Rather, the two would later meet in Alençon and marry. Louis was then an expert watchmaker, and Zélie ran a successful lace-making business. Both were profoundly Christian, with a deep devotion to their faith and a desire to follow God’s will.

They were married for nineteen years, and together had nine children, three of whom died in infancy and a daughter who died at the tender age of five. One can read from Mme Martin’s letters to her brother her intense anguish over the loss, one by one, of her children, and her resignation to the divine will. She ultimately succumbed to cancer, and died when her youngest child was only four. Monsieur Martin would also suffer greatly toward the end of his life. After offering himself up to God as a victim soul, he was quickly heard: arteriosclerosis led to mental instability and delirium, and a stroke would cause paralysis. Finally, a heart attack ended his life.

M and Mme Martin’s suffering would not be in vain. Their remaining five daughters all entered the religious life, and their youngest would one day come to be called by Pope St. Pius X “the greatest saint of modern times.” St. Therese of Lisieux, so called because of the town the Martin girls would call home after the death of their mother, grew up in the red brick house she knew as Les Buissonets. Of her parents, Therese would later say, “The Good Lord gave me a father and a mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth.”

The home is stately, but much smaller within than one imagines, consistent with many nineteenth-century French homes. The staircase, for instance, is small and so narrow it can fit only one person at a time. If you’ve seen the recent film Therese, it’s quite obvious they filmed in an American period home, as the rooms and staircase are much more spacious. Another inaccuracy in the film is that it shows a horsedrawn carriage leaving from the front of Les Buissonets, when in fact there is no drive at all; in fact, a red brick wall blocks access to the home, save for a small portal.

The fireplace before which Therese would receive her great Christmas grace: the end of her scrupulosity and excessive sensitiveness.

The house itself remains largely unchanged. Here is the dining room in its original state, where Therese shared her last emotional meal with her family before entering Carmel. On the mantle is a clock made by Mr. Martin.

The bed where Therese lay mortally ill in her youth, and a replica of the statue of Our Lady, whose miraculous smile cured Therese. Known as Notre Dame du Sourire (Our Lady of the Smile), the original sits above the reliquary of St. Therese in the Carmel of Lisieux.

Statue of Ste-Jeanne d’Arc on the dresser opposite the bed.

Louis Martin’s room next door.

St. Therese’s childhood room is next to her father’s, and has been turned into something of a museum and religious store. Here you can see her First Communion dress, and the outfit she wore upon entry into Carmel.

Below her dress is the crucifix she received at her First Communion from her sister Léonie. Therese kissed it as she lay on her deathbed, and bequeathed it to her first “spiritual son”, Father Bellier, a missionary priest in Africa with whom she corresponded. It would be returned in 1907.

Her tea set and picnic ensemble.

The cage where she kept her beloved canary, a chess set, crucifix, and writing desk.

The backyard is spacious, and full of little gravel paths that wind past shrubbery and beneath trees. A memorial has been built of the moment St. Therese revealed to her father her wish to enter Carmel.

“The little garden of Therese.”

“One of the altars that little Therese called marvelous.” Though difficult to see, here is a small crèche that was made in one of the nooks in the backyard and has been preserved.

One of the many garden paths Therese and her father would walk together in the evenings.

Anterior view of Les Buissonets

Les Buissonets, with the cathedral spire visible in the background. It is the church the Martins regularly attended (Mr. Martin donated the gorgeous marble High Altar there).

Marie lays flowers at the foot of St. Therese’s statue near the home's entrance.

04 June 2008

Leaving Home--to Go Back Home...

In a few short weeks, we make the long flight back to the United States. Am I glad to be returning to America? Yes and no. I'll be coming back home, but I'll also be leaving my other home. Being born French, having spent life here as a little girl, I will leave a part of myself here. There will be a thousand things about France I shall miss--most especially the language, hearing it all around me every day, seeing it on every sign. There’s no need to mention the wine, cheese, bread, pastry, yogurt (even the frozen dinners here are amazing; I’ve never tasted microwaveable meals so delicious). We’ve made some wonderful friends here we’ll miss, have met wonderful priests, attended a wonderful parish (which put the kibosh on the annoying stereotype that the faith is dying in France). I’ll miss the incredible churches and buildings, the beautiful architecture, the sheer living history of this and so many other cities, and, of course, all the holy sites we’ve been able to visit. Spiritually speaking, it’s been a rich year. It’s impossible to recount the graces with which we’ve been showered since our arrival.

I do look forward, though, to a more affordable lifestyle back in the Midwest. With the strengthening Euro and the declining dollar, our money goes fast here. And there are things I miss about the States: a good authentic Mexican taco; barbeque babyback ribs; Chinese take-out; even pizza. I know: how could I possibly crave such mundane fare when I’ve got boeuf bourgignon, oeufs de meurette, and hachi parmentier at my fingertips? Those are lovely, and we’ve enjoyed them all year; being deprived this long, though, of the fare one takes for granted Stateside has made us miss it. Politically speaking, I’ve been about a million miles removed. I’ve been keeping vague track of the American presidential race from a distance, though I can’t say I’m terribly excited about either candidate. Here in France, the press seems more interested in Sarkozy’s personal affairs than policy.

Coming here to live, we knew we’d have to make some sacrifices, and we’ve been perfectly happy to do it. We’ve had no car, so we’ve partaken of public transport everywhere; we have no oven, so everything has been cooked on a two-range stovetop with limited utensils; we’ve had no proper beds, and have instead slept on a canapé lit we bought at IKEA. And, because our apartment came unfurnished, we had to supply the rest ourselves; with limited funds, that meant a very spare (but spacious) apartment for the year, a very small refrigerator that required frequent trips to the grocery store for restocking, and no dryer (which meant, yes, daily hanging wet clothes on a rack). Thus, there are certain comforts we have gone without—but to live in France it was certainly worth it, and I have no complaints. I do admit, though, that it will be nice to return to the things that make life a little easier. And, quite frankly, now that je suis enceinte, it becomes even more imperative I return to the States and to a healthcare network I am familiar with (and that speaks English). I have no problem giving birth in France, but if complications were to arise, I'd prefer being able to understand absolutely everything the doctors and nurses were to say to me, and not just the majority of it.

Before reaching all those creature comforts, however, we’ll have to overcome the hurdle of a nine-hour plane flight with two bright and lively toddlers. Thus I found this article on how to keep children somewhat quiet on board very helpful.

Hutchinson Middle School Harasses a Sixth-Grader for Wearing Pro-Life Shirts

The St. Thomas More Law Center has just filed suit against Hutchinson Middle School on behalf of “K.B.”, a sixth-grade boy who has been the subject of continual harassment by school employees for daring to wear pro-life t-shirts to class.
School officials, including the principal and several teachers, on over a dozen occasions during April 2008, told “K. B.” not to wear the t-shirts, publicly singled him out for ridicule in front of his classmates, removed him from class, sent him to the principal’s office, forced him to turn his pro-life t-shirt inside out, and threatened him with suspension if he did not stop wearing the offending pro-life t-shirts.
I always find a brief, respectful letter expressing concerns to those in authority can make a difference; on almost every occasion that I’ve written an e-mail expressing my outrage over unconstitutional harassment, I get a response. Educational institutions, whether they be primary schools or universities, are especially concerned about their reputation, so the more they are inundated with notes of disapproval, the more likely they are to reform their behavior. Therefore, I leave to you, dear readers, the following contact information:

Keith Kamrath, Chairman of the School Board: kkamrath@hutchtel.net

Julie Ashbaugh, Vice Chairperson of the School board: ashbaugh@hutchtel.net

Daron VanderHeiden, Superintendent of Schools: daronv@hutch.k12.mn.us

Allen Stoeckman, Assistant Superintendent of Schools: allens@hutch.k12.mn.us

Todd Grina, President of Hutchinson Middle School: toddg@hutch.k12.mn.us

Bill Carlson, Assistant Principal: billcn@hutch.k12.mn.us

The Priest Game

Want to get your children interested in a vocation while having fun? The Priest Game, the first board game put out by Catholic Kids’ Games, is a hit among youngsters (even as early as 2 years of age). One family describes their experience:
There are many things I love about this game… First, it’s a great teaching tool on our priests and the Mass. Every thing that is used in the Mass or by our priests is on one of the cards with beautiful pictures and the proper names and simple descriptions that even Therese can understand. I have certainly learned quite a few things. Even my beloved husband who is an installed acolyte has learned a thing or two from this game. The prayers, especially those for our priests are lovely and a great encouragement to pray for them…. In addition, the game comes with a 3 part DVD on the Mass Explained that Fr. Tim did for his television show, “Inspired by This Confidence.” One of my favorite parts of this DVD is when he explains the prayers the priests prays as he is vesting himself for Mass. It gave me an even more profound love and respect for the priesthood.
You can order it for $25 here.