Benediction in the town of Chevagnes-en-Palliers
at one of two huge crucifixes in the town centre
with the Chaplain and students of Chevagnes International College.
Having travelled to the Vendée in the Pays de Loire region of France a couple of times in the past year, (here and here) I was struck at how many road-side shrines there are. Most often on the Continent these are Marian shrines but in the Vendée there is a preponderance of crucifixes - usually exceptionally large and often accompanied by the Virgin and St John. I surmise that the reason for this is the history of the area, where the people were particularly hard hit during the time of the French Revolution. Perhaps the Crucifix spoke to their spiritual and material suffering more directly. There are monuments in many of the churches as well, recording how men, women and children took sanctuary in the church building, only to be burnt out or stormed by the forces of the Revolution.
I read this morning of a new film "The Hidden Rebellion". The story starts at the beginning of the French Revolution in the year 1789 in this region of France called Vendée, near Normandy, where people were neither pro nor con regarding the Revolution. But as the revolutionaries’ restrictions began to increase, the Vendéans started to be against it. As opposition grew in the region, the revolutionaries realized they would not be able to implement their utopian plan of micromanagement unless they went through a “Reign of Terror.”
It means they had to terrorize their population in order to create their happy society. The Vendéans, who were slightly more prosperous than many people in France, and spiritually stronger, rebelled when the revolutionaries asked them to give up their sons to a new massive army of 300,000 men and have their priests swear allegiance to the government.
The slaughter reminded me of the attacks on Christians in the Middle East at the moment. You can read plenty at This is Christian Syria and at Aid to the Church in Need. Unfortunately, the move of the British government recently to take in 20,000 more refugees from Syria means taking them from the refugee camps but all too often Christians avoid these because they find persecution there are well, as pointed out by Lord Carey recently. Whilst many groups are persecuted and attacked, how little we seem to hear about the persecution of Christians in our Western media. I wonder why that is?
Photograph from the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo.