Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Paris Votes and Waits

The murder of a police officer on Thursday last a few minutes from where I live reminded all that we live in terrible times. May he rest in peace. The first round of Presidential elections took place in a tense atmosphere. There were no reports of attacks. The second round on Sunday, 7th May, will give France a new President. This will be important not only for France but also for Europe and the World. I hope that the incoming President will have the aim and the capacity to reach out to all of French society and to the world. France is experiencing a huge number of refugees on its streets. St Joseph's this past Lent has raised €25,000 for three groups who are reaching out to displaced people - Fondation Notre Dame, Caritas International and Order of Malta France. It is little, I know, among so many. The generosity of parishioners and ex-parishioners who donated is truly humbling for me to see. 

On a lighter note, the whole building where St Joseph's occupies the lower levels, is having all windows and doors replaced. There is scaffolding on the street and hammering from morning to night - but it will be worth it all when completed. 

The building will mark its 30th birthday in May this year. Back in 1985, after a decade of seeking alternatives to save a sinking building, I, as the then Provincial of the Passionists, signed on the dotted line for the demolition of the Church and Community house that had stood on this site since 1869. It was not an easy nor a popular decision. However, the evidence was overwhelming that the top of the church building could fall into the church below at any time. On the other hand, some said it might never happen. We will never know. One injury or, God forbid, one death caused by putting bricks and mortar, no matter how beautiful, ahead of peoples' safety, would have been unforgivable. After two years in another Church in Paris, the new St Joseph's Church and community section were opened in May 1987.

Many times since I first visited the original St Joseph's Church in 1975, I offered Mass and stayed with the community at 50 Avenue Hoche. One Sunday morning, shortly after the tragic death of Princess Grace of Monaco, I was offering Sunday Mass. Just as I began the Mass, in through the church doors came Prince Rainier, Princess Caroline and St├ęphanie and Prince Albert. True, as part of the congregation they were another four people but being a 'novice' priest with little experience, I was somehow conscious of their presence. It was great to shake their hands as they left after Mass. I am getting old - reminiscing like this.

Enough for now as we head into the month of May - besides being dedicated to Our Lady - is a wonder in France with so many Public Holidays!                                                           A.T. 

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