An Unforgettable Trip

What an incredible 3 weeks this was.  An unforgettable pilgrimage and retreat in Bèziers, France, followed by a conference with the Heads of Schools of the RSHM Network of Schools in Rome, Italy, and finally a three-day trip to London to see my nephew graduate from the Royal College of Art with his Masters Degree.  I have uploaded a few photographs of Bèziers and some of the surrounding villages and churches in the "Photographs" section that you can click on to your right. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to upload comments or photographs on a regular basis during most of my trip because I was dependent on my AT&T service to upload.  After a 3am call from AT&T warning me that I had compiled an astronomical data bill, I decided to wait for my arrival home to make a few comments and upload my photographs.  At $5 a megabyte one can burn through a lot of Euros uploading a picture via a slow Bèziers 3G connection.

It was beautiful, moving, inspirational, and educational.  I am indebted to Sister Bernadette and Sister Marrion at the RSHM Mother House in Bèziers for an experience I will never forget, and to Sister Mary Genino, Provincial Superior of the Western American Province of the RSHM for making this life-changing week and a half possible.  I look forward to members of my own faculty participating in this pilgrimage themselves so they can see the rich spiritual and educational tradition Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School claims for its own.


Father Gailhac & the Mother House

These are the stairs in the Mother House here in Beziers where we are learning this week, worn down by a century and a half of RSHM nuns walking up and down each day. I made my contribution to the wear and tear of these stairs twice today.

We have had a remarkable day learning about and discussing Pere Gailhac; his life, vision, and charism...all in the rooms where he sat, the streets where he walked, the churches where he prayed and officiated, and the Mother House where the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary lived and he worked.

I always felt that while my knowledge of Father Gailhac was at least enough to describe his vision and work to others, one day of in depth learning and discussion and I see just how woefully inadequate it was. While one week certainly cannot make anyone an expert, I feel much more qualified to fully explain and comprehend our own mission and how we are called by Christ to, as our mission states, "Know and make God known, love and make God loved, so all may have life and have it to the full." Today was a gift.

Tomorrow we study Mere St. Jean, co-foundress of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.


St. Aphrodise

Tonight the program began with a reflection at the RSHM Mother House around a small fountain in a courtyard area within the house (sorry no picture...I forgot my camera's memory chip). The fountain is fed by a natural spring.

During our conversation after reflection and prayer, Sister Bernadette spoke about St. Aphrodise, a Bishop of Beziers during Roman times. His death is quite a legend and, well, shall we say graphic.

Although the legend has changed over the years, this is the tale as it has been now for centuries. St. Aphrodise was an Egyptian who heard of Jesus's miracles and went to Palestine to meet him. After finding Jesus, Aphrodlse became a disciple receiving the Holy Spirit at the Pentacost. He went to France riding a camel to evangelize and moved into a cave near Beziers, living like a hermit, along with, of course, his camel. After becoming Bishop of Beziers, he was decapitated by a group of pagans, along with his companions, on the street now known as Place Saint-Cyr, the site of a Roman circus used for gladiators' fights.

His head was kicked into a well, but the water gushed out and the decapitated St. Aphrodise picked up his own head, and carried it through the city. Townspeople spilled snails on the road and St. Aphrodise stepped on them without breaking one. Several men taunted him, calling him a madman and a few other choice terms, I'm sure. They were miraculously punished by being turned into stones (exemplified by the seven stone heads on the Rue des Têtes, "the street of the heads").

Aphrodisius then took his own head and left it at the cave where he had lived earlier in his life. On that spot a basilica named for him now stands, very near the RSHM Mother House.

After St. Aphrodise died, his camel was taken care of by townspeople. When he was recognized as a saint, the city's leaders took responsibility for its care and gave it a house of its own to live in. The street, after the camel’s death, was named "rue du Chameau" ("Camel Street").

Tomorrow we have a tour of the Mother House, learn more about Fr. Gaillac and Mere St. Jean, the cofounders, and walk around Beziers, attending Mass at Les Penitents.


Guarding the Restaurant

Note the menu on it's side to keep the dog inside.


Morning in Beziers

This is the view from the window of my room at the convent in the morning. It's amazing how well you can sleep when you're exhausted. I walked over to the Mother House with my colleague, Jacqui, for some breakfast and more delightful conversation with Sisters we met just this morning. We will begin tonight with our program at 6pm after we've decompressed from our journey. I think I'll walk around town today, eat lunch, take a nice long nap, read and relax before we start this evening.