More on French Revival Print
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 12 October 2008 05:27
Oh here we go a-blogging amid the airport so green . . .

On my way again - to Chicago and then Bavaria.

But before I leave, I thought I'd use this time to share a bit more about the Catholic revival in France.

One thing became obvious as I read:

The revival didn't happen because of the 35 years of religious war. The endless violence, and more Catholic than thou Holy League's reign of terror in Paris (where they were known to arrest Catholics at Mass at Notre Dame for not being Catholic enough) only showed the spiritual bankruptcy of Catholicism-as-tribe and Catholicism-as-political/military-movement. Neither of them were capable of responding adequately to the challenges of the day.

Two to four million French man and women died in those conflicts and 20% of the population of Paris died because of the siege of 1590. The first generation of reformers were nearly all children or students during the civil wars years. Though most of them were not active participants in the civil war, they were deeply marked by their parent's experience of it and the atmosphere it created. When a tentative peace was restored under a Protestant-turned-Catholic king and the Edict of Nantes, the new stability included a permanent Protestant minority. The whole experience moved them from looking at the emergence of Protestantism as the cause of all of France's problems and starting to understand it as a symptom.

It was when the reformers turned to considering their own sins and failure and the failures of the larger French Church, and they turned to confession, penance, and a life of serious, disciplined devotion and mission (which was the 17th century language for "intentional discipleship) that the revival began. And this revival was anything but nostalgic. The Catholic Reformation was successful and regained much of the ground that had been lost because it produced a tidal wave of widespread spiritual, evangelical, and pastoral reforms and innovations that we now think of as essential Catholicism.

Deeply faithful to Christ, to the Tradition, to the Church and profoundly innovative and future-oriented as well. The fact that the Vatican Council (II) happened in a time of peace and apparent institutional strength has distorted our perspective. We keep projecting our concerns back on the Council of Trent and the early modern Catholic Church and they were not at all the same. Their backs were against the wall. They knew that reform and change was imperative. In that situation, there was no talk of hermeneutics of continuity.

All kinds of long-standing practices and "traditions" were suppressed as part of that renewal - liturgical, pastoral, disciplinary - and that was necessary but the heart and soul of the revival was the love-inspired creativity of heroic figures like Frances de Sales, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marrilac, etc.

My plane is boarding. Got to go. God bless!