The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, May 17, 2010

French Catholicism -- Rebounding?

Probably about 30 years ago, while browsing in a used book store, I picked up a copy of a book published by Maisie Ward (of the famous marital and publishing partnership, Sheed and Ward) entitled, France Pagan? I believe it was written around 1940 by a French priest active in the worker-priest movement of that time. I don't know what happened to my copy, so I can't provide many details. I suspect I lent it to someone and then both lender and lendee forgot about it. Nevertheless, I do recall the author estimating that less than 10% of French workers at the time were practicing Catholics. The rest were, in essence, pagan -- fitting products of the French Revolution.

I've been to France only a few times, and then only for relatively brief visits; but on each visit I was struck by the lack of religious faith among the people I met. One of my bad habits when I travel is to somehow inject the subject of religion into every conversation that lasts longer than three minutes. The French would either scoff or raise an skeptical eyebrow or just smile knowingly, amazed that a seemingly intelligent person could still take religion seriously. I also noticed that, were it not for the tourists, the churches would be almost empty. I remember attending Mass at the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paris on a beautiful Sunday morning in May 1985 and being surprised by an almost empty church. Perhaps 100 people joined me for Mass that morning and I suspect most were tourists and not Parisians. And yet when I left the church after Mass I found myself engulfed by probably several thousand locals just hanging out on the steps enjoying the view of the Parisian skyline or strolling around the grounds.It was all very depressing and brought to mind that Maisie Ward book.

And then back in January I posted something decrying the destruction of old churches in France -- Pagan Europe -- in which I also mentioned Ward's book. But then today I came across an article that gives me hope. It seems the French Church is following the Holy Father's lead and using popular media outlets to attract young men to the priesthood. One element of this more aggressive approach is the use of Facebook. I could give you the gist of the story, but I think it's best read in its entirety. Here's the link to, surprisingly, an AP story: French church recruits young priests via Facebook. It's well worth a read. Perhaps the Spirit has decided that the Internet can also be used for good. It's a nice story.

Pray for vocations...

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