Monday, 8 August 2016

Chavagnes Studium Marian Conference

I attended and helped out (behind the scenes - not as one of the speakers!) at the Marian Conference held at the Chavagnes Studium last week. We were blest with the company of Bishop Athanasius Schneider throughout the Conference, who also celebrated Mass on one of the days. (Though the above picture shows us after High Mass celebrated by the College Chaplain, Fr Mark Lawler.) There was Mass every day, twice in the Traditional Form and one in the Ordinary Form - throughout the week, that is, not on the same day!

Pupils of the College, past and present, assisted - both at Mass in in helping to run all the other practicalities.

Bishop Schneider gave an excellent homily on Our Blessed Lady. 





The Bishop and other clergy present celebrated early morning Masses, either in the main chapel or in the Baudouin Chapel (built over the site of the home of Venerable Fr Louis-Marie Baudouin, who founded the school as a junior seminary in 1803). Bishop Athanasius pictured here at the beautiful Lady Altar.

We visited the tomb of Venerable Fr Louis-Marie Baudouin, just a minute's walk from the Studium.


Now, it was a conference, 
so the talks and presentations were the main event.

Mr Ferdi McDermott introduces the Conference.
The presentations, talks and homilies will all be available in print in due course.

Bishop Athanasius speaking on
"The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Defence of the Faith".
His theme was that she is the destroyer of all heresies.  
Because she was the first to believe in the Incarnation 
she is also the first to destroy unbelief. 
He also spoke of the need not just for the joy of love 
(amoris laetitia) 
but also of importance of realising the joy of clarity 
(claritatis laetitia) 
in the present day Church.

Mr Ferdi McDermott introduces Fr Mark Lawler, the College Chaplain, who spoke on
"Mary as the Model of the Church in the writings of G. K. Chesterton".
Fr Lawler is presently engaged in researching for a Doctoral thesis on G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton ascribed his very faith and conversion to the Blessed Virgin.
The cult of Mary does not, Chesterton insists, lead us away from the Invisible God, as some Protestants suggest, but rather brings us back to her Son. The attempt to separate Mother and Child strikes him as futile: “those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.”
 Throughout his life Chesterton was accused of Mariolatry, of giving too high a place to Mary. He felt that since God had already given her the highest place, who was he to disagree with the Almighty. “Nothing amuses Catholics more” he wrote, “than the suggestion, in so much of the old Protestant propaganda, that they are to be freed from the superstition called Mariolatry, like people freed from the burden of daylight.”  
Although brought up in a Protestant household he knew nothing of what he described as:
That strange mania against Mariolatry; that mad vigilance that watches for the first faint signs of the cult of Mary as for the spots of a plague; that apparently presumes her to be perpetually and secretly encroaching upon the prerogatives of Christ; that logically infers from a mere glimpse of the blue robe the presence of the Scarlet Woman.
Chesterton believed any attack on the Mother of God to be literally diabolical because there was an eternal battle between the Woman and the Serpent. “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”  He sums up more than four centuries of attacks on our Blessed Mother as a "little hiss that only comes from hell."

Fr Bede Rowe, speaking on 
"Our Lady as the Ark of the Covenant".
A title, when understood with its symbolic and biblical roots, acts as a corrective to distorted Old Testament exegesis and reminds us that Mariology is not some minor branch of ecclesiology tagged on to the our understanding of the Church but as central, powerful and cosmic.

Mr Gerhard Eger speaking on
"Approaching Mary through the Sacred Liturgy".
An historical survey of Mary's place in liturgical celebrations bringing the realisation that we have lost much that is Marian in the liturgy over the years.

Despite the rigours of academe and liturgical celebration, there was also great opportunity for the human celebration and forging new friendships. Indeed, Bishop Athanasius spoke of the warmth of the atmosphere as being that of a family gathered together at the conference.

The garden was a great place to relax and enjoy a local Vendéan apéitif.

lunch and supper were served in the College Refectory.

Coffee on the terrace.

We travelled to Montagne sur Sévre to visit the tomb of St Marie Louis de Montfort by train, taking lunch on the restaurant car from the Orient Express. And very enjoyable it was!


The full title of the conference was
The Virgin Mary in Liturgy, Literature and Life,
inspired by the 300th anniversary
of his death being celebrated this year.
He is known especially for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin
and for his preaching.

We followed in the footsteps of Pope St John Paul in visiting the shrine.

Bishop Athanasius leads our devotions.

St Gregory is not particularly relevant here but I loved the pulpit decorated with the Fathers of the Church on the double set of steps leading up to it.

Some further shots around the College and visiting two of the local Chateaux nearby with connections to the college and to the very Catholic and Royalist history of the Vendée.

The college Chapel - you can just see the Baudouin Chapel to the right of the courtyard.

We were invited to a local chateau, Chardière Castle,  for cocktails one evening. It is still lived in by one of the descendants of the Count of Suzannet,  who led the Army of Lower Poitou during the  Vendée Wars in 1799. Pictured here in a painting by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse.

And to bolster my image as a sacristy priest - here are some sacristy shots!


1 comment:

Ben Williams said...

Lovely post - thank you, Father.