It is with mixed emotions that we arrive in Paris. We are excited to spend time here, but also know it signals the end of our pilgrimage.
We began with a bus tour of sites, getting out to look and take photos at the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Napoleon’s tomb.
I had mentioned to our guide that the patron of our diocese is St. Vincent de Paul, and so she added the chapel that contains his body. St. Vincent dedicated his life to the poor when there was no public safety net. He also established an order of men and, with Louise de Merillac, an order of women to carry on the work. As Vincent lived and ministered in Paris, it is appropriate we be here for his feast day (tomorrow). It is unusual to me that the placement of his body is at the top of the altarpiece. Luckily there was a stairway there so we could get a better look.
From there it was down the block to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal. Catherine Laboure was a daughter of Charity, the order of women that St. Vincent helped found two centuries earlier. In 1830, and two times later, the Blessed Virgin appeared to the young Catherine and instructed her to promote devotion to the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary and even gave her a vision of how a medal should look. Catherine was able to get the medal produced and promoted and many miracles were attributed to it. The devotion remains popular. The chapel was busy today. It seemed like the medals were flying off the shelf. I was the only priest and enjoyed talking to people bringing me medals to bless. We had Mass in the chapel and many people not in our group, many not English-speaking, joined us. Catherine’s body is an incorruptible, free of tissue deterioration, and it is displayed in glass case in a side chapel. We have seen a number of these.
It occurred to me with Catherine that there has been a recurring pattern throughout the places we’ve visited. Lucy (Fatima), Bernadette (Lourdes) and Catherine (Paris) where all simple and humble young women with strong faith, through whom God was able to open up a deeper faith to others. They heard the call, were entrusted a message, and bravely faced opposition to spread the message. I would even say that this is the pattern for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was called at a young age and made decision to dedicate herself totally to what was asked her despite the costs. I would like to think this pattern goes even beyond these examples. They should encourage us, whatever is asked of us, to put our lives and ourselves at the service of God