Light on the Rue du Bac

Rue du Bac Paris

Extend mercy toward others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?

So spake St. Vincent de Paul, who died 353 years ago today.

The great saint’s heart rests in a reliquary in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue du Bac in Paris. I had a chance to visit the chapel once. I can say it is one of the more luminous places in the world. The chapel itself shines with a stunning amount of natural light. Somehow it seems brighter inside the little church than outside on the street. And of course the supernatural light of the place shines brilliantly. It’s the same place where our Lady appeared and gave us the Miraculous Medal.

mary-mOur Lord Jesus said He would rise again on the third day, and He did. In the luminous pre-dawn of Sunday morning.

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope-Emeritus Benedict makes an interesting point about the New-Testament records of the Risen Christ. Skeptics dismiss the accounts on the grounds that they seem scattershot and confused. Who saw Him first? In Jerusalem, or Emmaus, or Galilee? What did He look like? How come no one recognized Him at first?

Good questions. The accounts are indeed jumbled, enormously zig-zaggy–as if it all happened under strobe lighting.

Pope Benedict makes this excellent point: If someone made it all up—if the resurrection of Christ were a fiction—then the accounts would be more coherent and easier to grasp. No one would make up the jumble we have. The fact that the picture of the Risen Jesus which we get from the New Testament—the fact that this picture is so genuinely blinding to our mind’s eyes: that gives these accounts a much stronger ring of truth.

He rose on the third day. It’s real. And it means that the hearts of all the saints will beat again—will beat again with pure, merciful love—they will beat forever: This is real. When all the tvs have stopped blinking, and the computer screens and smart phones—when the great noise of this world has gone silent, the hearts of the saints will beat, undying light will shine, and what is obscure now will be perfectly clear.

So, in the meantime, let’s be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.

150 Years Ago Today…

…the patron saint of parish priests died. It is St. John Vianney’s Dies Natalis, the day he was born into the next lilfe.

heart reliquaryPope Benedict dedicated this year to priests because of this anniversary.

St. John Vianney’s heart is kept in a reliquary separate from the rest of his body. The heart is enshrined in a small chapel outside the basilica in Ars. The basilica houses both the entire parish church of Ars and the sepulchre of the saint.

Today, after Holy Mass in the Basilica, there was a somewhat rag-tag procession of the heart of the Curé through the town.


There is a monument down the hill from Ars which marks the place where the saint asked a boy to direct him to his new parish. (The priest was arriving on foot). He said to the boy: “If you tell me the way to Ars, I will tell you the way to heaven.”

Today the Curé’s heart was carried to this monument, as well as other places in the town. Looks like it was a pretty hot day over there. St. John Vianney never had air-conditioning, of course. And he hardly ever slept. And he ate only boiled potatoes.

But the main thing is that he loved the holy faith of the Church and never tired of teaching it.