22 March 2008

Bonne Fête de Pâques!

Les disciples Pierre et Jean courant au sépulcre le matin de la Résurrection. Eugène BURNAND, 1898. Musée d’Orsay.

Rembrandt. La Résurrection du Christ.vers 1635-39. Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich.

Caravage. L'Incrédulité de Saint Thomas. 1602-1603. Sanssouci, Potsdam.

Holy Saturday in Dijon

We hadn't had snow all winter, the temperature has been in the 40s and 50s, and today, I awoke to this:

There was something of a minor blizzard for the better part of the morning, and the rest of the day it's been lightly snowing. Lovely!

The Stations of the Cross yesterday at St. Bénigne were solemn and dignified, two knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre carrying a large wooden cross (to which was nailed a relic of the True Cross) to each station, while Abbé Garnier, the curé of the parish and also a member of the order, read a meditation and prayed, accompanied by the associate pastor and two altar servers with candles.

The enormous crucifix spanning the north wall of the church was entirely covered in white cloth, and the brass crucifix on the High Altar was shrouded in purple. As we filed to leave, we were each given a chance to venerate the True Cross, kneeling and kissing it. The confessionals at the cathedral have been full all week. I saw my confessor there today and, bless his heart, he looked exhausted.

St. Bénigne Cathedral before the Chrismal Mass.

The long table in the center aisle would fill with priests from the diocese, who would renew their vows this night. I was happy to see Abbé Garban, the F.S.S.P. priest in this diocese (whose Mass I attend during the week), present; collegiality among French priests celebrating Mass in the ordinary and extraordinary form can be a rarity here, where the split between those attached to each rite is far more severe than in America. Neighboring Switzerland was, after all, the home of Archbishop Lefebvre, and remains home to his foundation La Fraternité St Pie X. The Motu Proprio, I imagine, is having a harder time being incorporated in France than elsewhere. Still, the traditional Mass is indeed growing, and it is always good to see one who offers that Mass welcome among diocesan priests.

19 March 2008

Knox on Obedience

[T]he real point about obedience is that it is a virtue on its own account. It is humility strung up to concert pitch by the fact that you are obeying a fellow-mortal whose judgment, humanly speaking, you have no particular reason to trust. You do it precisely to imitate the condescension of the God who was obedient to his own creatures. And, doing it, you become not just a more useful tool, but a better man.
--Msgr Ronald Knox, A Lightning Meditation

(via The Inn at the End of the World)

Second Spring: A Journal of Faith and Culture

I often look back on my Oxford days with a sigh, one not so much of nostalgia as of mild regret. You see, I had not yet returned to the Catholic faith then, and though I was studying patristics and writing a thesis on St. Augustine, my Reformed faith challenged and stretched with each perusal of the Fathers, I would not discover the richness of the faith at Oxford until I was firmly back on North American shores. It was only here, after my reversion some five years ago, that I would discover the heritage that has included Evelyn Waugh, Ronald Knox, Cardinal Newman, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other notable Catholics. And I almost wince to think I had cycled nearly every day past the church many of these men frequented, and I wholly ignorant of the fact…

These thinkers were invaluable in fostering the Catholic faith in England, and abroad, and there are those today who continue their tradition.

The Oxford-based Centre for Faith and Culture, maintained by St. Thomas More College in New Hampshire, is directed by two graduates of Hertford College: Stratford and Léonie Caldecott (who are also attached to the journals Communio and The Chesterton Review). It issues a journal of—as its title aptly indicates—Catholic faith and culture, focusing on Catholic orthodoxy through the Christian humanist tradition. Here you’ll find works from authors like Lorenzo Cardinal Albacete, philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, founding member of the Inklings Owen Barfield, Archbishop Charles Chaput, ethicist and philosopher Russell Hittinger and many others.

The Journal is currently offering a 50% discount on all subscriptions. One can subscribe at this link.

On a related note, the Caldecotts have also been involved in founding Ressource, a new company devoted to publishing Catholic materials and providing conferences, art instruction, and pilgrimages to the faithful. Some enticing pilgrimages on offer: Marian Shines of Austria, and Grail Quest: The Adventure of the Eucharist, with visits to Oxford, Winchester, Glastonbury, and Tintagel. [Update: Mr. Caldecott has informed me that pilgrimages are currently on hold.]

17 March 2008

Near Death Experiences

Some amazing accounts involving experiences of hell, and, afterward, conversions.

16 March 2008

Nice Easter Gift for Priests

Better than the customary present of baked goods, and with greater lasting benefit, you can request one Mass, three Masses, or a novena of Masses at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma, a foundation of l’Abbaye de Fontgombault, France. These Benedictine monks will offer Mass on any dates you request, for the customary stipend of $10 per Mass. Mass will be offered in the extraordinary form (1962 rite).

15 March 2008

Stewart Copeland Has a Blog

Which you can read here. (For those too young to know or too old to remember, he is the former--and, despite all appearances, intelligent and immensely talented--drummer of The Police.)

One particularly interesting bit:
One fine morning, I step out of the shower, peer into my wardrobe and realise that my life is over. I’m looking at an exotic collection of leather pants, hostile shirts and pointy shoes. Problem is, I’m a forty-something father of four and I’m feeling kind of mellow. I’m not angry about anything and as a tax-paying, property-owning, investment-holding, lotus-eater; I am in disagreement with what my clothes are saying to the world. The thrill has gone from frightening the natives. I care not that the world be unruffled by my passage though it.

So what do I wear? What have I got in my closet that doesn’t say “F*** You! I’M GOING TO BURN DOWN YOUR WORLD!” For so long, I have had to be worthy of the stares and furtive glances that follow rock stars. It would be unprofessional of me to walk out of my hotel room looking like I’d be safe with children. But now what?

All my life I have lived in self imposed exile from the normal world. My arty friends and I feel like we are the only humans in a world of robots. A business suit is like the carapace of an insect. Conformity is surrender. Even long hair is a cop out. Mine has had all colour peroxided out of it – heaven forbid that I should be mistaken for a nice hippie.

But I have discovered that some humans are merely disguised as robots. Under cover of conformity strange personalities can evolve. I have started to experiment with other uniforms and disguises. My main circle of friends is the polo set of Gloucestershire. It’s only natural that my first attempt at a new mufti would start here. They wear the same clothes that I used to wear in boarding school. Problem is, my career was fuelled by a desire to burn down my old school. I get even stranger looks than usual when I show up at the club bar in a blazer, with handkerchief in the pocket. Out on the street, the usual double take is followed by a look of confusion.
See the entry under WARDROBE to read the rest.

Yes: Ron Paul Is Still Running

His son sets the record straight:
Reports that Ron Paul has quit the Presidential Race remind me of Mark Twain's famous "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." The Ron Paul Presidential campaign continues, albeit at a different pace.

What does that mean?

Ron Paul will continue to contest the remaining primaries. Ron Paul's name will be on all the remaining state ballots. Ron Paul volunteers are encouraged to become precinct captains, delegates to state and national conventions, and to try pass Constitutional proposals to each state's Republican platform.
The press is reporting that Ron Paul has quit the race. This is not true. Ron Paul's video simply acknowledges that the campaign will continue but will also transform into additional activities such as education and supporting other candidates. In Kentucky we just held precinct conventions and Ron Paul Republicans won hundreds of precinct captains. In Kyle, Texas, Craig Young upset the establishment choice for Republican County Chairman.
The point is not so much to win as it is to make a statement at the National Convention, on live TV, before an audience of millions, who will be exposed to ideas on sound money, rational foreign policy, and personal liberty. The exposure he has received thus far has already made him a member of Congress many think worth listening to; his exchange with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, instead of customarily being ignored, was broadcast on national television, and he afterwards received calls from Wall Street agreeing with his position and encouraging him to continue his demand for sound money. His campaign has also raised the hopes of other political candidates with similar beliefs who now hope to fill positions in public life running on a similar platform. Though Ron Paul may not win, he is being heard--and all for the good.

13 March 2008

McCain and PNAC

McCain has surrounded himself with the best and brightest from the now-defunct Project for the New American Century: Randy Scheunemann, one of its directors, is serving as McCain’s top foreign policy advisor. He is joined by PNAC’s founder, Bill Kristol, along with Gary Schmitt (President), Robert Kagan (director), and James Woolsey (signatory).

More than any other group, PNAC has exerted the greatest influence over the Bush administration with regard to foreign policy. In 1998, PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton (signed by the likes of Cheney, Rumsefeld, Wolfowitz, and others) urging him to effect regime change in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s so-called development of WMDs. Clinton responded by initiating Operation Desert Fox, bombing military targets over a period of several days to “degrade” Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.

A mere nine days after 9/11, PNAC sent a letter (signed again by many of the same luminaries) asking that President Bush attack Iraq even if no links to 9/11 were found. The Bush administration promptly proceeded to do just that: according to the testimony of ex-CIA and FBI, every intelligence agent in Iraq was tasked to discover links between Hussein and al-Qaeda. When they came up with nothing, they were ordered to look again. Despite the lack of credible links, the Bush administration proceeded to act as PNAC had requested.

PNAC is an intellectual thinktank founded in 1997 by Bill Kristol. Its purpose, as set forth on its website, is to “advance American interests in the new century” by asserting “American global leadership” through “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad.” This would involve “challeng[ing] regimes hostile to our interests and values” and “preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” This would all be accomplished, of course, through the use of force, or by the threat of force.

PNAC makes no secret of its intent for American global hegemony (in Kristol’s own words, a ”benevolent global hegemony”): in a position paper published in 2000, PNAC advocated the nuclear strategic superiority of the United States, not simply over Russia, but over the world. One of the ways it would promote American military dominance is by “fight[ing] and decisively win[ning] multiple, simultaneous major theater wars.”

Can you say frightening? The only thing more bizarre than this plan for world dominance is that PNAC has been so overt and straightforward about it. And more frightening still, these are the men who have filled the Bush administration at its highest levels.

It was from PNAC that Bush became persuaded of the triple threat emanating from Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (borrowing David Frum’s famous “axis of evil” phrase). No sooner did PNAC indicate a so-called threat from Iran, then the administration began its saber-rattling. It was a heavy blow to PNAC’s interests when the NIE issued a finding that Iran had halted production of nuclear weapons in 2003 because of international pressure. Cheney, one of the strongest voices opposed to Iran and a PNAC member, is undeterred; he has turned his focus from nuclear weapons to ballistic missiles. If one recalls that the possible presence of a nuclear arsenal in Iraq was the only legitimate justification for a preemptive strike (side issues like the good of liberating Iraqis from Hussein’s oppression and the furtherance of democracy could never be justifications per se for a preemptive war) and that WMDs were never found, one surmises that any future administration controlled by PNAC (such as McCain’s, if elected) will hardly find it necessary to justify a strike based on the actual presence of nuclear weapons. Another excuse will do. One way or another, the plan for American empire will move forward.

Case in point: PNAC has proposed establishing permanent bases in Iran even if no real threat exists:
Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.
If its members get their way, expect an increase in American troops in Iraq, and for a very long time:
[T]here is little reason to anticipate that the U.S. air presence in the region should diminish significantly as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power…. From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene.
Though PNAC has since disintegrated due to internal conflict (there have been disagreements over the way the Iraq war is being waged and the government’s position towards Iran), its inner circle continues to do its work now advising the Republican nominee for president. McCain, with his talk of an occupying presence in Iraq for upwards of “10,000 years”, his recklessly aggressive attitude towards Russia, his glibness toward Iran, and his rock-solid belief that America must continue to be the world's policeman (a phrase, normally used pejoratively, employed in a complimentary fashion by him), McCain is PNAC’s dream candidate.

12 March 2008

79TH Grand Master of the Order of Malta

From the official website:
Fra' Matthew Festing, 58, an Englishman, becomes the 79th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, elected this morning by the Council Complete of State (the Order’s electoral body). In accepting the role, the new Grand Master swore his Oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and the electoral body. He succeeds Fra’ Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master (1988-2008), who died on 7 February.

The new Grand Master affirms his resolve to continue the great work carried out by his predecessor. Fra’ Matthew comes with a wide range of experience in Order affairs. He has been the Grand Prior of England since the Priory’s re-establishment in 1993, restored after an abeyance of 450 years. In this capacity, he has led missions of humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia after the recent disturbances in those countries, and with a large delegation from Britain he attends the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with handicapped pilgrims.

Educated at Ampleforth and St.John’s College Cambridge, where he read history, Fra' Matthew, an art expert, has for most of his professional life worked at an international art auction house. As a child he lived in Egypt and Singapore, where his father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had earlier postings. His mother was a member of the recusant Riddells of Swinburne Castle who suffered for their faith in penal times. He is also descended from Sir Adrian Fortescue, a knight of Malta, who was martyred in 1539.
In 1977 Fra' Matthew became a member of the Order of Malta, taking solemn religious vows in 1991.

09 March 2008

Le Curé D'Ars

St. Jean Marie Vianney’s life spanned a period of incredible turmoil, a time that saw no less than seven revolutions: born just before the Terror, he lived through the First Republic, the First Empire under Napoleon, the restoration of the House of Bourbon under Louis XVIII and Charles X, the July Monarchy that placed Louis Philippe d’Orléans on the throne, the Second Republic, and finally, the Second Empire under Napoleon III. Much of this political upheaval must have seemed very distant, however, to this priest in his country parish, whose days were spent confined within the walls of his confessional counseling and absolving the thousands who came to him.

The first official biography of the saint was written by Monsignor Trochu, published in France in 1925. I had the good fortune to read this inspiring work before our little pilgrimage to Ars. I translate portions below:

It was in the saddest days of 1794, a small distance from a suburb in Lyon called Dardilly. A troop of children amused themselves in a glen in Chante-Merle, a verdant crease between two hills. But how was it that children’s games could still exist in an epoch when all seemed to breathe sadness and grief? There had been formerly on the pathways of Dardilly calvaries built by pious forebears; destroyed on order of the revolutionary proconsul of Lyon, the famous Fouché, the crosses lay in the grass. The closed church was without a priest, without Mass, without the Eucharist; the tabernacle lamp no longer shone in the profaned sanctuary, the clock no longer rang… Yet the children were happy!

After having frolicked the length of the humble brook of the Planches which, among the iris, watercress, and mint, snaked to the bottom of Chante-Merle, all the little ones held silence. They were seated around a grassy knoll where one of them stood standing, ready, as it were, to address some words. And, in effect, the young boy (he was hardly eight years old) began to preach to his friends.

“To preach” is the word, for he repeated some verses from the gospel, some pious stories which were only snippets of sermons. Where thus had little Jean-Marie Vianney (thus was the name of this child) learned these things? Was it at catechism? By no means! Father Rey, the curé of Dardilly, had refused in 1791 to take the sacrilegious oath to the Constitution; the faithful priest was exiled in Italy. Jean-Marie only knew some of the catechism from what he had learned from his mother or from Catherine, his eldest sister.

But he had followed his parents, during the night, into the distant hills where some priests, hidden in disguise, could still celebrate the Mass. And there, with a great desire for instruction, he listened to these confessors of the faith who braved death to administer the sacraments and to give religious instruction to the persecuted Catholics.

One of those in Vianney’s audience, François Duclos, recounted later that the young Vianney preached principally on the obedience that a child should have towards his parents. He recommended also to all his friends, employed for the most part in keeping cows and sheep, never to get angry neither to quarrel among themselves, and to avoid rough talk and above all never to blaspheme.

Naturally, our young preacher repeated himself often, but it was in order to cry aloud, with the conviction of a true apostle, “Oh! My children, be good, be very good. Truly love the good God!” And although he called boys older than he by four or five years mixed in the audience “my children,” no one thought to laugh.

A repository was built in the hollow of an old willow tree. On some moss, among branches and flowers, stood a statuette of the Holy Virgin. This statuette belonged to Jean-Marie. This was his only treasure; having received it as a gift from his pious mother, he always carried it with him. All the children knelt before the roughly made altar. The “celebrant” commenced the Pater and the Ave that the “assembly of the faithful” together recited.

Consecrated to the Holy Virgin before his birth, baptized the same day as he came into the world, May 8, 1786, Jean-Marie Vianney, fourth child of Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluse, his wife, was, from his first months, the favorite of his mother. As if she had had the presentiment of the exalted destiny of this little child, she applied herself with greater vigor in forming his spirit and his heart.

The little innocent was hardly twelve months old when already, before taking meals, she made him trace the sign of the cross with his little hand. And the child became so accustomed to it that he refused to eat or drink unless it was done.

Still quite young, he loved to join in with the family during evening prayer, which was recited together in front of the large chimney. And he would not go to sleep if his good mother did not embrace him and commend him to his guardian angel.

He had already grasped that religious truth must be lived out and practiced. Marguerite, the youngest of his sisters, reported that, around the age of four, one calm afternoon, Jean-Marie disappeared from the house and for some time, his mother, more and more worried, searched for him without finding him. In a moment, she trembled at the thought that he had fallen into the deep pool where the cattle drank. Finally, searching the stable more attentively, O surprise! She saw the little one profoundly recollected, kneeling in a dark corner before his statue of the Virgin, which he held elevated in his joined hands! The child was already tasting the sweetness of prayer and, to better savor it, had sought solitude.

To be continued...

08 March 2008

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

A pro-life caller posed questions to several Planned Parenthood clinics asking whether his donation could be earmarked specifically toward “black babies.” In one call, he said, “The less black babies, the better.” The response: “Understandable, understandable.”

The undercover sting was spearheaded by the same woman who last year secretly recorded an exchange at a PP clinic in which the receptionist encouraged her to lie about her age on her application form.

And to champion PP’s cause, we have Barack Obama speaking effusively to the organization as part of his presidential campaign.

After hearing him, does he still seem like “a natural for the Catholic vote”?

05 March 2008

"There is a holy man in Ars; go see him."

We made a pilgrimage to the sleepy town of Ars, made famous by its Curé, St. Jean Vianney. An hour and a half south of Dijon by train, we took a taxi from Villefranche through the rambling countryside to Ars, surrounded by farmhouses and fields, a still-small town despite the pilgrims who have flocked here since the life and death of the holy priest. We were delighted to discover our lodging place, La Maison St-Jean, run by Franciscan Sisters, was directly behind the Curé’s presbytery and the Basilica.

On the way to Ars…

La Maison St-Jean

View from our window. Although it had gotten up to 52 degrees, on a fluke, a passing snowstorm swirled through Ars for about 15 minutes, then disappeared as quickly as it had come. We could hear the children in the street shrieking with surprise.

To the left is the little shrine dedicated to the universal priestly patronage of St. Jean Vianney; behind it, the building with the green shutters is the current presbytery for the many priests who reside in Ars. To the right of the Basilica you can see the red bell tower of the original church, and directly before the Basilica is the brown rooftop of the Curé’s house.

From this passage to his garden and kitchen, le saint Curé made his short way across to the church and to the confessional, where the pilgrims were waiting (some for days). Sometimes, when a visitor had a particularly urgent need, or simply wanted to catch a glimpse of this holy priest, the visitor would wait in this passageway until the Curé came out.

On one occasion, a grieving widow found herself here with other pilgrims; On returning from the presbytery, smiling in welcome, St. Jean Vianney scanned his eyes over the crowd and immediately sensed this poor woman’s grief. He, who was known to have supernatural light, told her simply, “He is saved, Madame; he is saved. Between the bridge and the water, he was given the grace to make an act of contrition; it was obtained for him by Our Lady. He is in Purgatory, and he needs prayer; but he is saved.” The lady went away stunned and weeping with joy, her grief cured.

View of the Basilica from St. Jean Vianney’s garden

The Basilica is directly across the way from the Curé’s house

The Curé’s confessional, dismantled and placed behind glass after his death.

In addition to his mortifications (he wore a hairshirt day and night, and performed nightly penance for his pauvres pecheurs with a whip of chains), his extreme asceticism (it is said he did not eat, humanly speaking, enough to survive, and thus his very existence was a marvel), his apostolate was the confessional; there he shut himself up twelve to eighteen hours a day and heard, counseled, and absolved the thousands of penitents who came from all over France to unburden themselves to him. News of his fame spread throughout France by word-of-mouth: “There is a holy man in Ars; go see him.” As many as 20,000 pilgrims came per year to Ars.

St. Jean Vianney’s room, where he slept between two to four hours per night, frequently awakened by preternatural crashes and thundering made by the devil, furious that souls were being snatched away from him. The noises were so loud his neighbors in the surrounding farmhouses could hear them. The Curé endured these nightly furies for thirty-five years.

Although this was his proper bedroom, he often spent nights in a moldy side room where he would sleep on a rough straw mattress; he did this in penance for poor sinners.

His daily habillements

Although the Curé lived in humble simplicity and poverty, repairing his soutane with patches of black cloth, sleeping on a mattress of straw, and eating almost nothing, he insisted that the Mass be said with the utmost dignity and beauty, and thus ordered only the most ornate vestments, vessels, and altar pieces as he thought befitting Our Lord. During the consecration, he was known to shed an abundance of tears.

Three times the Curé tried to flee Ars, his highest desire to enclose himself in a monastery and spend his days alone adoring the Blessed Sacrament. Each time, he returned out of duty and obedience, and for love of the poor sinners who came seeking light and consolation from his confessional. In one attempt at flight, leaving at midnight, going some distance through the fields, he came across the stone cross he had first encountered upon arriving to Ars many years ago. There, at the foot of the cross, he remembered the souls he was leaving behind, and in tears, obedient, he returned. All told, he spent forty-one years in the village.

His kitchen, where he would receive guests

The presbytery garden

La Providence, St. Jean Vianney’s most cherished work. It became an orphanage and school for girls, who were taught the faith and given the love denied them by their own parents. Many of these girls, once grown, went to join the religious life. When the orphanage was shut down in 1847, it was one of the heaviest trials the Curé had to bear.

Behind the presbytery garden, the oven used to bake bread for the orphanage is located. One of St. Jean Vianney’s miracles took place here: the orphanage had been almost emptied of food, so the Curé prayed intensely that God would provide for his children. When the baker went to add water to the handful of flour remaining the next day, after kneading it, it rose and increased such that he was able to bake enough bread to feed all of the orphans.

During the Jubilee of 1843, a successful mission was preached by a fellow priest, and St. Jean Vianney erected this cross in honor of that day.

St. Jean Vianney’s deathbed; he continued to hear confessions up to three days before his death, when he was ordered to rest. He died at age 73, as simply and as humbly as he had lived.

St. Jean Vianney was declared the patron saint of all priests of France, and later the patron saint of priests everywhere. A shrine was built in honor of his universal patronage of his fellow servants at the Altar, and the guestbook within only welcomes the signatures of priests.

Inside the shrine, the Tabernacle is flanked by two golden angels, and the heart of John Vianney rests behind a glass case in the door.

View of the Basilica of St. Sixtus from a side allée. The original church, founded in the tenth century, was dedicated to Pope St. Sixtus. When the Curé arrived to Ars in 1818, it was in crumbling ruins. He rebuilt it, partly with material he purchased himself. After his death, a sumptuous cathedral was built in the Curé’s honor, which houses the incorrupt saint.

Buried in 1869, the Curé was exhumed in 1905, and his body was as fresh as the day it was interred.

St-Jean Vianney, priez pour nous!

02 March 2008

The Birth of France

Baptême de Clovis, premier roi des Francs, par saint Rémi devant la Basilique St-Rémi à Reims

Clovis was the first king to unite all the Frankish kingdoms under one rule. Three years after marrying the pious Clotilda, he rejected the Arianism of his Frankish forebears to embrace the Catholic faith.

After Clotilda convinced her husband to allow their son to be baptized, she encouraged the same of him. It was only during the battle of Tolbiac, during which he invoked God’s help and promised to become a Christian if his troops were granted victory—which they were—that Clovis agreed to baptism. Thus was born the great kingdom of France and its first Christian king.

On Christmas Day, 496, surrounded by great pomp, St. Remigius, bishop of Reims, baptized the king: Bow thy head, O Sicambrian; adore what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast adored. Clovis’s sister and 3,000 soldiers also embraced Christ.

According to one pious tradition, the baptismal chrism was miraculously brought in a vase by a dove; the Sainte Ampoule rests in the Reims Cathedral, traditional site of the coronation of French monarchs, their heads anointed with the chrism from that sacred vessel.

Clovis made Paris the capital of his kingdom. By law, Romans and barbarians were made perfectly equal, and the Salic Law was written down. He also protected and defended Holy Mother Church, and is attributed with establishing churches and monasteries all throughout his kingdom, St. Geneviève being one of them, where his remains were laid to rest until the period of the Revolution; a band of Jacobins vandalized his tomb, scattered his ashes, and wrecked the sanctuary.

His Latinized name Ludovicus evolved into the French Louis, a name that would be significant among many later French kings, and immortalized in the holy life of King St. Louis IX.

01 March 2008