We decided to visit Paris after a 50 year hiatus. I’ve heard how the European community, especially France was separating from its Christian roots, and how the politics and its secular ideologies was steadily moving them farther left. Holding on to many Christian cultural values of family, gentility, respect – a bonjour and merci always, there yet is a persistent attack upon Christianity and specifically Catholicism in France. It’s a political thing. So, jokingly I would say to friends that I only intended to speak with dead French philosophers and artists over some glasses of Bordeaux and cheese at cafes along La Seine and tell them the error of their ways.
My further mission was to visit La Rue des Martyrs street of martyrs], home of St. Ignatius and the Jesuits at the foot of Sacre Coeur [Sacred Heart Cathedral]. From there I would discuss with the French how they needed to return to the church and Christianity considering emerging events in history. To my surprise, when we attended mass at St. Germain de Pres and St. Sulpice, we saw the churches filled to capacity, standing room only. We came to realize later that there has been a resurgence of Catholicism in the past 10 years. They were getting the message without me. Jean Paul Sartre must be turning in his grave.
Upon our return, I had time to reflect on our trip, and on events transpiring in the U. S. and the world as most have. I’ll make it brief. The French were very accepting of us, an interracial family. It wasn’t always that way for us in So FL since 1975. My generation was particularly cruel. We’re Catholic. I know that God speaks to people and speaks to people as nations; he always has. It’s how things are organized on this planet. France is looking at itself more as a nation, a national community and a people rather than that borderless European community many, but not all aspired to. The U. S. is not so different. Further, France is not that far from its Christian roots as one and some propaganda machines might want to us believe. It appears, I know it is for us, that many in America have spent this time of Covid - 19 isolation in prayer. We ask for God’s will in our lives, for direction and purpose, for mercy. With things changing so much, combined with the realization of our increasing sense of powerlessness, it brings me back to St. Ignatius of Loyola on La Rue des Martyrs, 1534 and our purpose in life – “Work like everything depends on you, and pray like everything depends on God.”