Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Via Turonensis

Near St Martin's Basilica in the stunningly beautiful old quarter of Tours, there is a small museum devoted to the history of the shrine. It features a list of famous pilgrims, among them St Clothilde (d. 545AD), the second wife of the Frankish king Clovis I. Above all (though she also won fame for her charity towards the poor and almsgiving), St. Clothilde is remembered for the decisive part she played in her husband's famous conversion to Christianity, which might in fact be called the "Baptism" of France. Noticing however that Blessed John Paul II's visit to Tours, in 1996, is only hand-written, as an addendum to the text about famous pilgrims, i decided to suggest to the attendants that they might reconsider this, since he may one day, perhaps even quite soon, become known as John Paul the Great - only the third Pope in history to be accorded this dignity, if it happens.* But the other link here is with Pope John Paul's famous challenge, in 1980, to the people of France: 

"Eldest daughter of the Church, what have you done with your baptism?"
And indeed it might be said that France's collective memory of her baptismal promises has been a little bit hazy at times - but at least the French don't appear to have suffered one of those massive traumas that lead to total memory loss, like the English! Mind you, it's not entirely the fault of the English that (unlike the French), there were no massive public demonstrations in support of traditional marriage. As i have explained to a number of terrifically kind and helpful French people over the last few weeks, when the subject has come up in conversation, the UK campaign against the homosexual assault on marriage and the family was hampered to some extent by our heritage of reform. It was quite natural that Protestants should take the leading role in the campaign, but it is undoubtedly the case that they were reluctant to allow Catholics to be excessively visible.

*the others being Pope Leo the Great and Pope Gregory the Great. 

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