Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Travelling home through France

It could be said we stumbled upon Rocamadour in that while exploring the route home online, I chanced to find this place which seemed worthy of a visit. We were unaware that we would get Mass there and more than that discover a thriving Catholic community in the heart of France. This might sound strange to many as France abounds with churches and Roman catholicism was preserved as the official state religion unlike during the  Reformation in England. However it did have a Revolution and the effects of that can be seen and felt as one travels from town and village church to another. Yes, Mass can be found in some but they are often run down and sad looking. No monetary help from the state and falling populations and congregations has taken its toll. However we loved Rocamadour, set in a gorge above a tributary of the River Dordogne. It's sanctuary of the Blessed virgin Mary has attracted pilgrims from every country.
The town below the complex of monastic buildings and pilgrimage churches was traditionally dependent on the pilgrimage site and now on the tourist trade.

 The buildings of Rocamadour  rise in stages up the side of a cliff. It is spectacular! Flights of steps ascend from the lower town to the churches. The chief of them is the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame (rebuilt  from 1479) which contains a wooden Black Madonna reputed to have been carved by Saint Amadour himself. He is identified with the Zaccheus in the Gospel story. The small Benedictine community reserves to itself the use of the small twelfth-century church of Saint-Michael. it was pleasing to find daily adoration and Mass attended by pilgrim groups and individuals.  The subterranean church of St Amadour (1166) contains relics of the saint. On the summit of the cliff stands the ch√Ęteau built in the Middle Ages to defend the sanctuaries.
We prayed for all the families and individual members of the Holy Family Guild here.

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