Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The 'Renaissance' of St. Romain: Part 2

It is impossible to know how many people have been praying locally for the Mass to come to St. Romain again, but I am very well aware of how many of you have been praying for that very thing and want you to know how much we value your indispensable contribution, one that almost certainly could not have happened without the Internet.

As the church began its decline in the late 1980s, I started to build up our little house chapel, convinced that even should it be at a very distant date, Holy Mass would one day be offered in it. Twenty years later, again through a dear friend on the Internet who lives in the south of England, I was put in touch with an English priest who is carrying out his minsitry in France, only about 200km away from us. Through this mutual connection it was possible for him to come here and spend a weekend with us.

And so at the beginning of Advent last year, our prayers were more than answered. As you know we had two Masses on consecutive days, Holy Hour, Benediction and Confession. (If you missed these reports and photographs, please go back to posts from last December.) Ever since it was blessed in 1994, the chapel had always felt different from the rest of the house. Visitors always commented on it even though we never said anything. And then after Our Lord had been here last year, it changed and deepened yet again. Now when I go up to the chapel and then come down across the library and down to the kitchen, I remember in Whose footsteps I am treading..............Ever since then, the whole house has changed.

Whilst Father was here we explained the diocesan situation to him. He knew how difficult it was, and yet just before he left us, he turned to me and said, "Get the church open." It wasn't a peremptory command, more a request which, I found myself unaccountably believing, would in the event be simple to effect. I went indoors knowing I must write to the bishop, but what on earth was I going to say to him...........

Not much more than a month later the work began on the buildings opposite our house and the letter to the bishop immediately became an easier possibility. As soon as we knew the date for the opening of the new Mairie it would be possible to collect signatures in the parish and ask the bishop for a special Mass on that day if he could spare us a priest. Once the weather improved I would get cracking.............. During the fortnight before Lent began we heard that the Mairie date would probably be at the end of this year, or the beginning of next, so there would be plenty of time for organisation. We were not to know at that stage that Our Lord had other ideas, how beautiful they were to be, and that He would come to us in His Own church the day after Lent began. (See earlier posts here and on the Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog.)

When Pere Marchand was appointed, he could have left things as they were - alternate Sunday Masses in two, always the same two churches, whilst the others all around, including in St. Romain, remained empty, mostly locked and dead. I cannot help feeling that Our Lord had told His young priest, that this was not the way to do things, not the way He wants things done. It will be several weeks before He comes again, but He knows the joy and expectation this has put into our hearts. In place of the assurance of nothing, the promise of everything. Saint Romain has truly begun to live again with Christ Our Lord at its heart. The first renaissance of which I spoke in the earlier post is materially obvious, but known to the Commune authorities or not, it is of secondary and earthly importance. The most important Renaissance is the one that began in the church on February 18th, on which is celebrated the feast of St Bernadette here in France. (She too has her little shrine in our house chapel.)

Please pray for Pere Marchand and his huge charge of 24 parishes, spread it seems over at least a quarter of the Charente, which is like saying the whole of south west Devon. We spoke to him after the Mass and he is coming to see us once Lent is over. Father A., our English priest, hopes to come to us again in the summer, but he has not been at all well. He really has need of your
prayers too and I know you will offer them.

I will keep you posted as to how things go on.

Deo gratias