Penny Silvers takes Regina Magazine to Paris on La Grand Journée, in honor of the 800th birthday of the saintly and Most Christian King, Louis IX.
Born in 1214, King Louis was crowned king at Reims Cathedral at the age of twelve. He ruled the Kingdom of France at the height of its great medieval civilization. Known for his piety, benevolence, and justice, Louis was considered first among equals among the kings of Europe. In his person, Louis embodied all the ideals of Christendom.
Eight centuries later, French Catholics gathered in Paris to honor their great king. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The procession was organized by the Oriflamme association, dedicated to the promotion of Christian heritage through events like processions and conferences. More information here: asso.oriflamme.over-blog.com)
We began the day with a Solemn High Mass at the parish church of Saint-Eugene in the 9th Arrondissement.
Featuring Propers of the Mass of St. Louis and the Ordinary from the Mass Gaudete Domino from the Coronation of King Louis XVI, the Schola Sainte-Cecile lifted the Mass of the Ages with sublime music.
After Mass, we gathered in the place at Saint-Eugene to begin the long promenade
Preceded by the processional crucifix, the clergy in golden vestments lead us.
The magnificent statue of Saint Louis IX, carried aloft by squires of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, followed by the Order of Malta cloaked in black mantles emblazoned with the Jerusalem and Maltese Cross insignias. The Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Malta file in solemnly.
The medieval troop Teutonic Order dressed in their chain mail call to mind the Crusading movement so much a part of our Catholic identity, long maligned and deserving of reconsideration in the light of current events.
While St. Louis’ two Crusades failed in their mission, the king was always solicitous for the weak and wounded. Louis ultimately gave his life, succumbing to an illness during the second crusade.
Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat! The chanted words ricochet off the walls of Paris’s beautiful buildings. We are over one thousand strong, in a Grand Promenade.
Brightly colored flags of fleur-de-lys (the royal symbol of France) and the Sacred Heart, plus the joyful singing signal to curious motorists that we are not the usual crowd of demonstrators.
A banner posted outside a restaurant greets us: “A King for our times.” A heckler’s invective spurs the Choeur de Montjoie Saint-Denis to lead us in singing “L’Appel de Roland” in response., singing Roland, sonnez votre cor! (“Roland, sound your horn.”)
The Choir has become an emblem of the singing tradition of France, preserving in song her religious, military, and political history. Rue after rue we are buoyed by the songs, the chants, and the litanies making present for the city and her dwellers of the deep Christian heritage, of which we are the heirs.
Begun in 1239 and consecrated in 1248, the Rayonnant Gothic Sainte-Chapelle is considered one of the highest achievements of Gothic architecture. The Holy Chapel was designed to house the collection of the Passion relics — most importantly, Christ’s Crown of Thorns.
The collection of the relics of the Passion was purchased by St. Louis from Baldwin II, Latin emperor of Constantinople and transferred from Venice in 1239 by two Dominican friars to France. For the final stage, St. Louis carried the relics himself, barefoot and dressed as a penitent into Paris.
Filing past the Hotel de Ville and over the Bridge of Arcole, we arrive at last at the portals of the great Notre-Dame de Paris.
The Rector of the Cathedral, Monsignor Jacquin greets the Prince Louis de Bourbon and Prince Henri d’Orleans at the portal doors of this great cathedral, so long a site of pilgrimages up to the present moment.
We process in to the glorious sounds of brass and organ. The Schola Sainte-Cecile sing once again to accompany our final procession to venerate the Crown of Thorns resting on a red velvet pillow and the relics of St. Louis in a golden reliquary at the foot of the altar.
The chants of Victimae Paschali Laudes and Vexilla Regis Produenti with their fitting words of mortal duel and victory remind us that through the Passion of Christ we win a participation in the glorious and majestic heavenly realm.
It was this telos which St. Louis always kept in mind, the goal of heaven and the abhorrence of sin which led our dear Savior to suffer the cruelties of the Cross.
In his instruction to his son, “to love thy God with all thy heart, and to desire rather to suffer than commit one mortal sin” Louis expressed the grand motivation behind his deep devotion to the Catholic Faith and all his actions of justice and prudence, his benevolence to the poor.
A king indeed for our times.
Procession in honor of the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis
(by Marie-Line Burguiere at www.mlburguiere.com)