SMASHING MISSION CROSSES

The anti-religious sentiment that had exploded in the July Revolution, had incited certain hotheads to destroy the public crosses in the towns where missions had been preached in previous years. These missions always concluded with the erection of a Cross in a prominent place as a reminder of the mission. (Cf. http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=568 and http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=570 ).

Some of these crosses also contained symbols of the Bourbon kings – and in many cases, it was this cooperation between “throne and altar” that the protesters were objecting to.

Oh! how concerned I was at Mass this morning with all these profanations which have been done to the cross of our divine Savior. The hairs on my head bristled on hearing of these infamies. It is worse than in the other revolution. Be it God’s will that this may not draw down in response a comparable malediction on our unfortunate country!

Some of the civil authorities, including in Marseilles, had asked the priests to remove the crosses and hide them so as to avoid them being destroyed by angry protesters. Eugene had strong feelings about this:

As for me, I would consider myself an accomplice of this sort of apostasy if I consented, as they have done in several places, to the removal of the lovable sign of our redemption. The Catholics by virtue of their beliefs have the right to raise up this cross, the worthy object of their adoration and no one can lawfully take it away from them.
In my opinion, there is a greater scandal in the benevolent compromise between the civil and religious authorities whereby the image of Jesus Christ is clandestinely made to disappear from the midst of his people, than in the profanation perpetrated by a horde of evildoers who smash it to pieces. I doubt that they have had the courage to propose this odious confiscation at Marseilles, but I would not swear that it was the same at Aix.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 September 1830, EO VII n 363

In fact, the city authorities had made this request to Bishop Fortuné in Marseilles. He had refused to give in, and the local population of fishermen and harbor workers protected the huge mission cross when attempts were made to destroy it. It remained safe and continues to hang at the Calvaire to this day.

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One Response to SMASHING MISSION CROSSES

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Violence and hatred against others for their beliefs and differences. I have begun to learn of the violence that seems to accompany revolutions and the seeming necessity to take away and destroy anything that does not match the prevailing thought. BUT –
    this is the cross we are talking about. A few years ago here in Canada one of our provinces decided to create a “Charter of Values” which included a section making it illegal for any who could be considered a public servants to wear certain religious symbols. They would be allowed if they were discreet and small, however obvious items such as a kippah, turban, hijab, religious pendants and larger crosses would be prohibited.

    I could barely believe what seemed to be happening in my own country in this day and age and I was outraged at was being suggested. It scared me a little, because I saw it as the beginning of an erosion of personal rights for so many. And so I have to admit that I understand Eugene’s fiery language – for I too have had moments of very strong opinions.

    It seems that throughout time there has been movements around the world when peoples and governments have taken to destroying what they consider to be profane or secular symbols, as well as symbols of other religions with practices that are different from their own. It has also happened in ways that are not violent, by belittling and making fun of others beliefs, faith symbols and their religions and religious leaders.

    I am not ignoring what happened in Eugene’s time or his own strong personal reactions to it all. Again I seem to relate it to what is happening in current times – around the world – and so am quite unprepared to just let this go as something that happened to other peoples in another time, and then glibly walk away forget about it. It will affect how I listen to the news and how I tolerate and make room for others. What do I hold most dear?

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