Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rue du Bac

Pilgrimage completed to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. Eurostar whisked us smoothly across the Channel for a pre-lunch visit to the Shrine. It certainly is a pilgrimage site, not a tourist spot, with a nice group of French schoolchildren celebrating Mass, and the Church filled with many of the immigrant Catholics from the French diaspora. My two new parishes have been put into Our Lady's hands - so She's the boss! Then we met my French godfather and his family for a delightful lunch at La Coupole, one of the most famous restaurants in Paris, where Picasso and Hemingway used to eat. For those interested: Pate, followed by a seafood risotto, washed down with some refreshing red. Tomorrow the 'pilgrimage' theme of my holiday at home continues, with a little visit to Rochester. We will go to the Cathedral (St. John Fisher's, of course) and then check out some of the second-hand book shops, so I can return to the Colonies with even more books. However, as my namesake, Big Ben, has a personal library of 20,000 volumes, I feel no guilt! Found this great quote on Zenit from Cardinal George, easily the most intellectually able of the US bishops: "Ideological conflict in the Church destroys the unity necessary for mission. We can't live and act together if we are divided on essentials of faith and morals, or if some decide they don't have to obey the bishops unless they govern the Church according to their particular expectations. Some groups operate as a kind of fifth column in the Church, convinced of their own righteousness and willing to weaken or destroy the Church if She doesn't change to suit them." Apart from being absolutely spot-on regarding our own situation, it indirectly addresses a question that I have been pondering for some time: if we can't "act together if we are divided on essentials of faith and morals," can a Catholic priest legitimately turn up at all these ecumenical 'gatherings' that are part of parish life - especially with the Episcopalians? We are truly divided on the essentials of faith and morals and so, I would argue, isn't it more than disingenuous, perhaps even the cause of scandal, to 'stand together' in one another's churches, pretending that all is well? I know the Russian Orthodox pulled out of all ecumenical contact with the Episcopalians after the whole Gene Robinson fiasco - is that the honest thing to do, in a spirit of charity? Thoughts/observations welcome!


Karen said...

Thank you for posting the picture from the Rue du Bac. In 1990 my mother and I visited there and found it just as you say. My mother was engaged in her long battle with cancer, and that visit gave her such peace and comfort. I've never particularly found Paris to be warm and inviting....but the Rue du Bac obliterated all my reserve. St. Therese of Lisieux's corner of Normandy was also another haven. My mother died 12 years ago this summer, but that time we had together at those two places of pilgrimage were very special.

As re: ecumenism...I guess you do what you can depending on the situation. For instance, it works fine if churches get together in their charitable works amongst the poor. And it works okay in some situations like the prayer services given right after 9/11, and the funeral service for Ronald Reagan. (Of course Reagan had long decided what he wanted at his funeral.)

But I agree, you can rightfully wonder "if it's worth it" if it involves sitting around conference tables "Dialoguing" about things you know would be in no way acceptable. The "Robinson" affair is such a thing. It's like Brideshead Revisted where Julia tries to explain to Charles the difference between "merely" committing a sin - through sudden impulse, etc. as opposed to willfully LIVING in sin. To have no intention of quiting to keep doing it on and on.

You can't compromise on things like that. The best you can do is explain your position. But it's not like something the Catholic church is going to change its mind on. It's not like deciding what shade of green looks nice on chasuables.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Liz said...

Ecumenism is such an odd thing from my perspective. One of the milestones on my way into the Church came as the result of an ecumenical encounter. Our pastor's wife had arranged for the youth group to visit the local Catholic parish (as an educational experience) and several of parents went along as well. The priest very kindly answered questions for about an hour before Mass. At Mass were were invited to come forward at communion for a blessing. The very personal blessing he gave me and the answers to the questions I asked were a significant event in my own history. I didn't read Rome Sweet Home for another couple of years, and I didn't convert 3 years after that, but I know that it was one of the steps along the way.

However, I mostly stay away from ecumenical stuff now. Unlike that encounter where the Catholic faith was clearly upheld, most of them become exercises in holding to the least common denominator. It seems as if it really encourages doctrinal relativism (you like chocolate, I like vanilla, but God loves us all just the same). I don't attend Church Women United events for just that reason. It's actually easier for me to deal with my Protestant evangelical friends who look at me as apostate at worst or deluded at best than to deal with those people who see my conversion as simply an odd, but inconsequential choice.