Thursday, July 16, 2009

Les Incoruptibles et Laghet

In the middle of everything going on lately, I am finishing the itinerary for France. We will be moving around a bit, mostly 2 days in each place, which will be some driving for me, but will let me show the boys various regions. The final reservations I am fixing are for Provence and the Riviera. I wanted to book into a place I've had on my list for some time, the Benedictine (fomerly Carmelite) monestary of Laghet. The nuns there rent out little rooms, which are just what you'd expect for a convent; spartan. The building dates from the late 17th century, and has a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary which has facilitated many miracles, as confirmed by an extensive collection of ex-votos. The ex-votos (gifts as sort of a thank you to the Virgin for answering a prayer) include a lot of detailed drawings depicting events from which someone was saved, a woman's leg in argent massif from a princess for curing her sciatica, and a gold baby (en or massif), a gift from a nobleman following the miraculous cure of his infant son; the gold baby was made to the same weight as the son, about 8 pounds. There are crutches and various surgical appliances and the like, but those are the highlights. So I'm looking foward to seeing all of this...
The boys are in Catholic school now, so I thought I would show them a few interesting Catholic things in addition to ancient Catholic buildings. So I am going to take them to the rue du Bac in Paris, to see the Chapel where the Virgin Mary appeared to Catherine Laboure in 1830 (it will be right on our way as we go to Deyrolles and one of my favorite home shops and chocolate shops, so we can pop in). It was after these visits that Catherine facilitated the creation of the Miraculous Medal, arguably the most widely-distributed religious medal after the crucifix. There you can also see the body of Catherine, which has never decomposed and looks like the day she died, though she was buried and then exhumed 30 years later. There are a series of these saints and holies around the world, but mostly in France and Italy. Some people accuse them of being a hoax, saying they are just embalmed like Lenin, but les croyants say the bodies actually give off a sweet smell, not that of embalming fluids. You'll have to google it to get the rest of the story, I just thought the boys would find the whole concept interesting, and something that does not exist in the U.S. Bernadette from Lourdes is also in an uncorrupted state, and she is in Nevers, not far from Burgundy. I'm debating if we'll go there, but not sure; I don't know how close you can get to the glass coffin. R accuses me of having a fascination with the macabre; maybe a little; I confess I have walked by the chapel on rue du Bac a thousand times and never went in; there are too many pilgrims going in and out and too many panhandlers at the door... Anyway here is a photo of Bernadette. I read that she had a "very light" wax applied to her skin and hands, but she does look peacefully asleep, doesn't she?

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