Paris Posts

Rue du Bac Paris
Rue de Bac

Be My Speed (St. Denis), St. Denis, Beheaded

Light on the Rue de Bac

When I visited Paris in 2002, most of the churches seemed like museums. But not all of them. 1. At Rue de Bac, cheerful hymns and devout prayers. 2. At Basilique Sacre Coeur, all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the largest monstrance I have ever seen, continuous since August 1, 1885.

Andrea Mitchell reminded viewers that France is the United States’ oldest and dearest ally. We would never have won the Revolutionary War without French aid.

But more than that: France is the Church’s eldest daughter. Let’s put our hearts in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacre Coeur, or in the Miraculous-Medal chapel on Rue de Bac. That’s where mine is.

Sacre Coeur from Arc de Triomphe
Montmartre, from the Eiffel Tower, with the Basilica of the Sacred Heart

St. Denis, Beheaded

Stunning statue of St. Denis in Virginia Museum of Fine ArtSt. Denis was beheaded by pagan priests 1756 years ago today, at the top of Montmartre in Paris. He picked up his own head and then walked six miles to a cemetery, which is where the magnificent basilica of St. Denis now sits.

Countless statues depict St. Denis holding his own head in his hands, including one from the 1400s which is kept in the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

Among other things, a St.-Denis statue reminds us of man’s grim capacity to do violence to man. When I was growing up, I remember hearing plenty of people dismissing such things as relics of a barbaric past now vanished forever. Such ugliness has been conquered by our modern enlightenment!

But we have learned that man still has the same capacity for inhumanity to man. 2014, the year that has given us the iPhone 6, has also given us plenty of public beheadings.

The malice of the fallen human race does not die. But there’s a difference between beheading people, on the one hand, and letting yourself be beheaded on the other—in order to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

The great moment of ‘enlightenment’ for the human race does not occur when “all great religions accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world,” as President Obama put it at the UN last month.

No, the great moment of enlightenment for the ugly and violent human race came when God became man and died on the cross.

If we, as a race, think we can cross the river from barbarity to civilization by ourselves, without divine aid, we fall into a dangerous fantasy. The only boatman Who can get us from the darkness of beheading our enemies to the light of loving and praying even for those who would behead us—the only boatman to a world of light is Jesus Christ crucified.

Little Wonders

Did you know: Before Helen was taken from Sparta to Troy–even before she was married to king Menelaus–while she was still a girl, she was abducted by Theseus?

Theseus gave her to his mother to take care of her, until she would be old enough for him to marry.

But Helen’s brothers Castor and Pollux rescued her from Theseus’ mother Aethra. (You can learn a lot of ancient mythology from beautiful old plates.)

Helen married the king of Sparta. But then she was taken away to Troy by Paris. (Paris was the cousin of Aeneas, the ancient father of the Roman race.)

It was a trial being the most beautiful woman in the world…

Puer natus est nobis!

The “Missal” is the book the priest uses to say the prayers of the Holy Mass. The Cornaro Missal has a beautiful illumination on the page next to the Christmas Mass prayers.