Solemn Professions of French Dominican Sisters with Bishop Athanasius Schneider

EinkleidungAn acquaintance of mine from southern Austria is a postulant with the „Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit“ an “Ecclesia Dei” community of Dominican sisters, who teach in schools. She sent me some pictures of the solemn profession of some sisters. The the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C. celebrated the Mass of Profession. Among the sisters professing vows were two Austrians — Mère Marie Barbara and Mère Maria Lucia. There is a long tradition of Austrians going to France in search of a particularly fervant religious life– Bl. Otto of Freising the son of St Leopold of Austria, for instance, went to Morimond Abbey. What is it with France and religious communities? Even in these days there is an extraordinary flourishing of various communities that have returned to the sources of religious life.

The history of France is so frustrating because France has such authentic greatness, and corruptio optimi pessima. As Thomas Merton remarks in The Seven Storey Mountain. 

And yet it was France that grew the finest flowers of delicacy and grace and intelligence and wit and understanding and proportion and taste. Even the countryside, even the landscape of France, whether in the low hills and lush meadows and apple orchards of Normandy or in the sharp and arid and vivid outline of the mountains of Provence, or in the vast, rolling red vineyards of Languedoc, seems to have been made full of a special perfection, as a setting for the best of the cathedrals, the most interesting towns, the most fervent monasteries, and the greatest universities.
But the wonderful thing about France is how all her perfections harmonize so fully together. She has possessed all the skills, from cooking to logic and theology, from bridge-building to contemplation, from vine-growing to sculpture, from cattle-breeding to prayer: and possessed them more perfectly, separately and together, than any other nation. Why is it that the songs of the little French children are more graceful, their speech more intelligent and sober, their eyes calmer and more profound than those of the children of other nations? Who can explain these things?

10 thoughts on “Solemn Professions of French Dominican Sisters with Bishop Athanasius Schneider

    • Could you tell me where Thomas Merton’s quote end? Is the last paragraph from you? I agree with the commetns as a French citizen (living in the US) but unfortunately it’s not true of all French children anymore. I was 4 years ago teaching in France in a private Catholic school, and the children were just the way you described them. Due to good parenting’s skills and strong Catholic faith.


    • But surely, my English friend, you would have to at least agree with Merton on this: France has the most fervent monasteries. No offense to Her Britannic Majesty’s glorious realm, but monastic observance in England can’t compare with France.


      • At my last count, 88 (that’s eighty-eight) Cistercian monasteries alone were dissolved and destroyed by our despotic, lecherous and psychopathic king Henry. Therefore, yes, rather unsurprisingly one might think, monastic observance came to be rather stronger in France. But for monasteries per square mile before Henry’s great dissolution, nowhere can compare to England, where there were around 850 monasteries and religious foundations in the country. And as so many historians of the period point out, before the Reformation, England was undoubtedly the most Catholic country in Christendom. I like some of Merton’s writing, but that silly, intoxicated, hagiographical passage on France is embarrassing.


  1. “I once ventured to say to an old clergyman who was voicing this sort of patriotism, ‘But, sir, aren’t we told that every people thinks its own men the bravest and its own women the fairest in the world?’ He replied with total gravity–he could not have been graver if he had been saying the Creed at the altar– ‘Yes, but in England it’s true.'” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


    • How splendid.

      “A Frenchman’s conceit stems from his belief that he is mentally and physically irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman’s self-assurance is founded on his being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman he always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct.” Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, bk. 9. ch. 10).

      PS. He continues: “An Italian is conceited because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is conceited just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s conceit is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth — science — which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.”


  2. Pingback: French Nationalism, The Karlskirche, the Empire, and the Meaning of Europe | Sancrucensis

  3. Frustrating, indeed. In his novel The Ball and the Cross, Chesterton expresses this in two characters, atheist Turnbull and Catholic MacIan, who run away from England in order to duel to the death without interruption:

    “Hurrah!” cried Turnbull, waving his fragment; “we are safe at last. We are free at last. We are somewhere better than England or Eden or Paradise. MacIan, we are in the Land of the Duel!”
    “Where do you say?” said the other, looking at him heavily and with knitted brows, like one almost dazed with the grey doubts of desolate twilight and drifting sea.
    “We are in France!” cried Turnbull, with a voice like a trumpet, “in the land where things really happen—Tout arrive en France. We arrive in France. Look at this little message,” and he held out the scrap of paper. “There’s an omen for you superstitious hill folk. C’est elle qui—Mais oui, mais oui, c’est elle qui sauvera encore le monde.”
    “France!” repeated MacIan, and his eyes awoke again in his head like large lamps lighted.
    “Yes, France!” said Turnbull, and all the rhetorical part of him came to the top, his face growing as red as his hair. “France, that has always been in rebellion for liberty and reason. France, that has always assailed superstition with the club of Rabelais or the rapier of Voltaire. France, at whose first council table sits the sublime figure of Julian the Apostate. France, where a man said only the other day those splendid unanswerable words”—with a superb gesture—”‘we have extinguished in heaven those lights that men shall never light again.'”
    “No,” said MacIan, in a voice that shook with a controlled passion. “But France, which was taught by St. Bernard and led to war by Joan of Arc. France that made the crusades. France that saved the Church and scattered the heresies by the mouths of Bossuet and Massillon. France, which shows today the conquering march of Catholicism, as brain after brain surrenders to it, Brunetière, Coppée, Hauptmann, Barrès, Bourget, Lemaître.”
    “France!” asserted Turnbull with a sort of rollicking self-exaggeration, very unusual with him, “France, which is one torrent of splendid scepticism from Abelard to Anatole France.”
    “France,” said MacIan, “which is one cataract of clear faith from St. Louis to Our Lady of Lourdes.”
    “France at least,” cried Turnbull, throwing up his sword in schoolboy triumph, “in which these things are thought about and fought about. France, where reason and religion clash in one continual tournament. France, above all, where men understand the pride and passion which have plucked our blades from their scabbards. Here, at least, we shall not be chased and spied on by sickly parsons and greasy policemen, because we wish to put our lives on the game. Courage, my friend, we have come to the country of honour.”
    MacIan did not even notice the incongruous phrase “my friend”, but nodding again and again, drew his sword and flung the scabbard far behind him in the road.
    “Yes,” he cried, in a voice of thunder, “we will fight here and He shall look on at it.”
    Turnbull glanced at the crucifix with a sort of scowling good-humour and then said: “He may look and see His cross defeated.”
    “The cross cannot be defeated,” said MacIan, “for it is Defeat.”

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