Thursday, June 14, 2012

Standing the Test of Time

Today we took a break from all our church crawling, jumped onto the RER train that took us outside of Paris, and got caught up in the splendor of the hunting lodge/château/royal palace that is (well, now was) Versailles.

This visit, to the center of power for Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, came at an interesting time in our week in Paris – a good bit into our visits to churches both prestigious and humble, and deep into our time exploring the culture, the sights, the history, and the people who make up this vivacious and extraordinary city.

We were led through amazing gardens, the scale of which was so huge that it could scarcely be contemplated. Our walking tour took us through a palace the likes of which humanity will probably never see again: gilded halls, decorative touches in tapestry, foliage and rare jewels that were simply overwhelming to see combined in one place.

"Nec Pluribus Impar" was the motto of King Louis the Fourteenth. Its translation: "unequalled among all". And when he said unequalled, he meant it: at Mass, his court did not face the priest or the sacrament. They faced the king. The king, who called himself the "Sun King," because like the sun, everything good and vital came, he thought, from him.

The French Revolution ended the reign of the family that was "unequalled among all." His château is now the common property of the French government and her people, and, indeed, thousands walk by his once-sacrosanct bedroom every day.

So here's why I'm thinking so much about this. When it comes to legacies, and reigns, and traditions, what has perdured? A king, whose power was presumably so vast that he likened himself to a member of the solar system? Or a nun, who in her poverty, yesterday raised up her hands and welcomed a congregation to join her in song?

Last time I checked, Sacre-Coeur is still in the hands of the Catholic Church. And I pray that this reign does not succumb to the kind of ending experienced by that other, former institution. But akin to Louis the Sun King, the church's reign, as an institution, would do well to pay attention to the angry crowds outside her gates. With power comes the responsibility to stewardship. And with great power, likewise comes a mandate to great stewardship as well.

Tomorrow is our last day in Paris, and it has been a time both revitalizing, challenging, eye-opening, and an opportunity for grace-filled observation and prayer. Please God we use these last 24 hours well!
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Location:Versailles, outside of Paris, France

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