Day 2 had been set aside to enable the pilgrims to visit some of the places in Paris that Marcellin would have visited. In particular, we wanted to become more aware of the history of France during the time of Marcellin and of the people and organizations that would have impacted upon his thoughts and reflections.
Our first stop was a church named after St Sulpice who stood up to the kings of the 7th century. The French Revolution was a key event taking place during Marcellin’s formative years and this stop gave us time to ponder the relationship between the Church and the Politicians of the time as well as considering the impact of Marcellin’s attendance at the seminary run by the Sulpician order. The church, which is in the process of being restored, is a magnificent building and features the Chapel of Our Lady at the far end.
In the true nature of pilgrims, we walked just under two kilometers to our next stop doing the best we could to ignore all of the tempting pastries, chocolates and items of interest in the shop windows we passed. The Chapel of the Miraculous Medal with it’s pronounced focus on Mary and her messages to St Catherine of Laboure would have been a natural attraction to Marcellin who held Mary in such high regard. Here we had time to consider again, the impact on Marcellin, of another religious order and their particular charisms.
We gathered after lunch outside of the Missions Etrangeres in rue (street) du Bac. Marcellin stayed at this residence for about six months during his negotiations to obtain legal authorization for the Institute. Many of the missionaries who were trained out of this residency ended up as martyrs and we had the opportunity to visit the new buildings established to tell their story and to honour them. In addition to the many interesting artifacts there were some quite graphic visuals that left little to the imagination about the fate of these brave individuals. They heeded the call to go out to the world with the gospel message and the similarity in Marcellin’s message to his brothers was clearly evident. The attached residence has one of the largest private gardens in Paris and as we walked it’s paths we were touched to consider that no doubt Marcellin had walked these same paths as he pondered God’s call upon his life and planned the next steps of his response to that call.
Our final destination for the day was not one that Marcellin visited but one that was established in his honour. Place du Pere Marcellin Champagnat is in a quiet quarter alongside a church and is the result of lobbying by a French woman Jeanne de Rocqueville who was conscious of Marcellin’s work in education. She was shocked that whilst he had been formally acknowledged in Brazil, there was no acknowledgement in his own country of this son of France who had done so much for education throughout the world.
Our formal time finished here with a group photo taken by a kind Frenchman passing by. Of course, instead of saying “cheese” he said “fromage.” Now the pronouncement of “fromage” doesn’t quite leave a smile on your face however the humour of the situation left all faces smiling – the bonding was getting stronger.