Wednesday, September 26
Br. Larry Schatz, FSC
We left for Paris at 8:30am after packing up the coach. As we arrived in Paris, Brother Stephen bade us all farewell, since he was headed to the airport to get back to Iowa for a special episcopal ordination. Our number, however, remained the same, because later in the day, Elaine, Roger’s wife, joined us from England where she had a prior engagement. We checked into our hotel in Place Vendome, which borders on the Tuileries Garden. This is also Paris Fashion Week, so the lobby was filled with both models and lots of the latest fashions for women. Very interesting, and as you can imagine, a bit “out there”.
Today was our day to trace the Founder’s footsteps in Paris, which are considerably fewer than in Reims, mainly because of how much the city of Paris has grown and changed in 300 years. We began at 12 Rue Princesse, site of the first Lasallian school in Paris, founded in 1688. It is now a private building, so Bro. Michael stood outside the door and talked about how the actual classroom was on an upper floor of what is now an apartment building. But, ah, Providence was with us: suddenly the door opened and someone came out, so we asked if we could enter. It helped so much to visualize the locale and situation of that first school once we stood inside the courtyard.
Our next stop was the Church of St. Sulpice, where the Founder spent 18 months as a seminary student; if you’ll recall, the death of both his parents within a few months of each other meant that he had to return to Reims. His time at St. Sulpice had a lasting effect on him. After some gentle persuasion on the part of Bro. Michael, we were able to get the key from ther sacristan for the Assumption Chapel where De La Salle celebrated mass with his Brothers many times. The chapel is pretty much the same as it was in the Founder’s time, so being there was very special for us; we spent some time reflecting and praying.
We then went to the Church of the Carmelites on the campus of Institut Catholique. It is there that Brother Solomon, canonized in 2016, was martyred. Bro. Christian from France joined us to help explain the significance of the site and to detail how the actual martyrdom took place. Without going into the whole gruesome story of what happened in 1792, to be in the courtyard and see the actual steps where St. Solomon met his bloody death was very moving. We also visited the crypt where both the names and the remains of all the clerics and religious martyred that day are located.
Our final stop was at at Rue de Sevres where Brother Claude greeted us at the French District headquarters. Bro Claude’s help has been indispensable in arranging a lot of the logistics for this trip, and he arranged that we arrive at the Provincial Office right at the time the District Council was talking a break, so several Brothers in our group got reacquainted with several Brothers from the District of France whom they had met in the past. Our group also helped the District by purchasing a lot of “swag” while we were there, including “300” apparel and other memorabilia. It was a very pleasant way to end our afternoon in Paris.
We ended the day with a wonderful dinner cruise that night on the Seine, being dazzled by all the sights along the river.