Bon Soir from France:
Well, another bad night for the Internet and E-Mail last night … but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I did want to tell you about one of the photos I sent you with the last e-mail. The sun had come out when we got out of the car for the second time at Paray-Le Monial near the Chapel of the Apparitions. While we were walking to the Chapel, for some reason I looked up at the Sun and saw a Rainbow Ring around the Sun in a perfect circle. The inner part of the ring just didn’t look natural to me. I immediately pointed it out to Susan and she saw the same thing and said … get photos! I was able to stare at the Sun and Rainbow Ring for a couple of seconds and I saw what I thought looked like a Cross. I immediately snapped a few pictures. I found out, just today from a friend, that this phenomena was on the French News the next day. They can’t explain the occurrence but said that it is something very rare. (Just thought I would share with you)
Okay … to get back on track. We made our way to Noiretable, France and “The Queen GPS” brought us directly to the main Church in the center of town. Unfortunately, (which is not rare), it was the wrong Church. Susan went over to the Office of Tourism and got a map from them.
Unfortunately, the girl did not speak English so she could not help us but gave us some literature in English. We walked back over to the main Church and entered. Only a few people were in there, apparently planning some sort of Mass. I walked up to them to try to get some information while Susan sat in a pew looking at the literature she had just received. As I was trying to communicate via “universal language” to find the location of the Marian Shrine, Susan found it on her map and said … “Ask them … “L’Ermitage”!. Immediately one of the girls knew what we were asking and motioned for us to come outside so that she could point us in the right direction. We thanked her and headed back out.
I hadn’t driven 100 yards down the street when we saw a sign for Notre Dame L’Ermitage. We made the turn and from that point on, the driving path was well marked. We drove up, up and away … heading further up the mountain. I loved those “S Turns” … (I now call them the “Susan-Turns” because she claws her fingernails into the leather of the “Beamer”.) We got to the very, very top of the end of the mountain and there was the Monastery of Notre Dame L’Ermitage (another Shrine maintained by the LaSalette Religious.
We were trying to make the 11:30 A.M. Mass that we had hoped to attend. Time was getting very short. We parked the car and headed quickly toward the Religious Store nearby to try to find out where Mass might be taking place, since it appeared the Shrine was not open at the time. The Sister inside tried to point us in the right direction (in French) … something about going around and around. We thanked her (pretending like we knew we understood) and purchased some small mementos for our “At Home Shrine).
We walked to an area we thought Sister had described and saw a door that appeared to be to a Monastery Residence. Feeling brave, we opened the door and walked into a lobby-type area. I began to walk up a few stairs thinking that might be the Church when a Sister came out a side door at the foot of the staircase. We are not sure if she scared us or we scared her. The three of us just stared at each other for a few brief seconds and Susan said “Mesa????”. She was quiet for a moment and repeated … “MESA????” and we shook our heads yes. She motioned for us to follow her and opened a door and motioned for us to walk in. It was a very small Chapel with only about 8 Religious Sisters sitting on various chairs and a Priest quietly seated in a chair behind the Altar.
It was so quiet in this small Chapel and we thought Mass was about to begin when Father stood up to begin the Prayers of the Faithful … We had
missed the Readings and Gospel Acclamation. OOPS! (Not to mention that we were the only non-Religious in this small Chapel!). We quickly realized that we were in the Sisters’ Private Chapel for their Daily Mass with the Monastery Priest!
We followed along with the remainder of the Mass as if we knew exactly what we were doing. At the time of Communion, we followed the lead of the Sister who had welcomed us into their Chapel. When Susan approached Father to receive Communion, there was a delay as he retrieved the Host from his Ciboria. After Susan had received and began to walk away, she realized that Father had placed FOUR HOSTS in her hand for consumption … perhaps he knew how many days we had not received the Eucharist since our departure from home? It was a Blessing for her.
As Communion was concluding, we were both Praying and began to look around the small and intimate Chapel. All of a sudden we both saw it … The Original Statue of Our Lady of Notre Dame L’Hermitage … she was right there on the right side of the Altar. In plain sight and looking over all of us in the Chapel. It was a serene moment for the two of us.
After the Final Blessing and as Father departed the Chapel, the Sisters began a Litany of Prayers while addressing the Statue of Our Lady. They followed the Prayers with another Litany they SANG AS IF ANGELS to Our Lady …it was beautiful and surreal.
We were ready to leave after Mass when Father came out of the Sacristy and directly towards us (he must have seen that “T” (“Tourist”) on our foreheads. He wanted to know where we were from. He had a broad smile and said he was Italian, French and from Madagascar (quite a combination). As he was speaking with Susan, one of the Sisters … the one who had met us in the hallway and brought us into the Chapel, came up and, through “universal language”, invited us to share lunch with all of them. Shocked, we graciously accepted (never say “no” to a Sister who is staring directly at you). We were able to understand that we had about 20 minutes to explore before dining with them. Father guided us to the door, gave us the European double cheek kiss, let us out and locked the door behind us.
There was a beautiful “monument type” structure outside the Monastery with a Cross high atop. We walked up to the very top and, as we were taking photos, we heard whistles and turned to see Sister and Father on a balcony of the Monastery beckoning us that lunch was ready. We waved and began to descend. We made our way back to the door Father had locked behind us …and it was still locked! We tried to knock lightly … then harder … then with our fists … knowing that the Sisters and Fathers were waiting to eat their lunch but there was no answer. We tried to tap on the windows too, on what we thought was their dining room … no luck.
Finally, we decided that it was time to give us and we began to head back to our car. All of a sudden, Sister appeared from another completely different area of the grounds, did her whistle again and beckoned us to follow her to the complete opposite end of the grounds (duh … we didn’t quite get that interpretation!)
Sister gestured for us to be seated at one of two tables with Father, two
other guests, Sister and another Sister while the other Nuns were at the
next table. We feasted on a delicious carrot salad followed by an incredible stewed pork dish in a sauce, potatoes and breads … followed by a selection of cheeses, fruits and desserts. Oh, yeah … and carafes of regional red wine which kept being refilled.
The room was filled with laughter as they all attempted to communicate with us in English … each trying to “out-do” the other with “What Is Your Name?” … “Sank You” … “Have A Good Day” … “Where Are You From” … “Do You Have Children”. As we answered, they had no clue what we were saying. The laughter that filled the room was beautiful.
We did manage to learn that the Sister who had become our “Angel of the Day” was “Sister Marie Paul” … because of her love for Saint John Paul Deux… we renamed her to Sister Marie Paul Deux and she loved it! I sat next to a young and vivacious Nun … who we learned was from Madagascar … Sister Susiac which she said means “Sister Flower”! She was a riot and we learned that she was the “Chef” at the Monastery. I quickly informed her that I do all the cooking in our home. Susan shook her head and put up her hands as if to say … “he always has to do that to me!”. The room filled with laughter.
With this great meal and time spent nearing an end, it was almost 2:00 P.M. It was time for the Sisters to open the Shrine and get back to work … (Father probably had time for a quick nap after such a great lunch), We bid our farewells with a lot of hugs and kisses, requests from the Sisters for our Prayers for them (and theirs for us), a beautiful Blessing from Father Jean for our journey and this great experience was at its end.
Having had our fill of meat, when we got back to the car, I let the “chicken out” (LOL) … (for those of you who actually read our e-mails).
We then wanted to walk to the original spot of the Apparitions and the “Source of Water” where there is said to be a Fountain and “Ex-Votos”, but the sign indicated that it was a 1-1/2 hour walk to the Source each way. It was bitterly cold and windy and I figured that if we took on the task, the Sisters just might find us frozen to death along the path in a few days … so we decided to depart.
We made our way to the next hotel in Clermont-Ferrand and checked in. I decided that we should go into the city to find the Basilica of Our Lady of the Port where many miracles have taken place. So we turned on “The Queen GPS” and muddled our way through the busy city. Not being able to Find Notre Dame Du Port with “The Queen”, we had her guide us to the Cathedrale of Clermont-Fermond and we found a parking lot and began our walk,
We found the Cathedrale of Our Lady of the Assumption which was quite spectacular even from the outside with its twin spires. But I really wanted to get to Notre Dame de Port which was our goal so we headed out on our quest. We had entered the Sacristy of the Cathedrale (Ed … see photos of the Sacristy … just for you!) … We spoke to either the Sacristan or the Priest to ask for directions. The “universal hand signals” began and we didn’t want to look like dummies so we acted as if we understood and hoped wecould figure out the hand signals once outside.
Walking and walking and walking, we could not find N-D De Port so we went back to our car in the parking lot. Still determined, I drove around and
around Clermont-Ferrand with determination but no luck. I finally saw a religious tower amid the buildings, so we parked the car once again and began another walk-a-thon. It was getting bitterly cold and windy but I was going to find this Shrine. Between the two of us, we approached at least a dozen people to try to get directions. Most had no clue what we were asking and the others were trying to give us directions back to the Cathedrale. With great frustration, we gave up … called it quits and drove back to our hotel.
Disappointed, we returned to the hotel knowing that we were tired but still wanting to get the Trip Report done … re-pack and figure out clothes for tomorrow, etc., etc. … That is when the fun started (or not so fun!).
The Internet Wi-Fi at the hotel would not allow both of us to be on our separate AOL E-Mail Accounts … for some reason, the hotel was trying to block AOL and re-direct us to their local site (spam and spyware being updated now very often).
So, exhausted, I climbed in to bed and get to sleep … oh … my mistake! I was already in bed dictating this e-mail for Susan to type … LOL!
Au Revoir … tomorrow’s report is an exhilarating day with two Cathedral friends that we met up with in France and shared 5 glorious hours at a Shrine and spending time together.
God Bless Each And Every One Of You.
On an ending note, today we received two very sad emails at our final destination. A dear friend from our Cathedral, Rick Dolan, has passed away after a tough struggle with cancer. A long time Priest friend from St. Anselm in London, England, Father Damien, passed away and we just learned of his death. We met Father Damien while in LaSalette, France many years ago and have stayed in touch over the years … hoping that one day our paths would cross again … Rest in peace, Rick and Father Damien.
Love and cherish those you have while they are with you. God Bless.
May God bless all of you … Always!
OUR LADY OF THE HERMITAGE … LASALETTE SHRINE