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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sisters from Brentwood and Boston Visit the International Centre

Sr. Line Rioux (front right) leads the group up the hill to The Kitchen, the only physical trace of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph in LePuy in 1650. (left to right) Sr. Joan, Sr. JeanneMarie, Sr. JoAnn (behind Line) and Sr. Bernadette

It was their first time here but Brentwood Sisters Bernadette Westman, Joan Gallagher and JoAnn Squitieri and Boston Sister Jeanmarie Gribaudo, were totally enthralled with LePuy. 

They visited The Kitchen, the only physical trace of the founding sisters of 1650. Afterward, they visited the scenography of the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the world. (The scenography was opened in September 2016 thanks to a grant from the Anna-Maria Moggio Foundation of Haverford, PA.)

The sisters' impressions of Le Puy revealed not only the connection they felt with the early sisters but with the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph that has endured for over 350 years.

The sisters pose in front of the fireplace that the early sisters used. Sr. JeanneMarie, Sr. Joan, Sr. JoAnn and Sr. Bernadette (left to right)
"As soon as I got off the train I was amazed at how calm and quieting the place was," said JoAnn, who is doing her canonical novitiate this year. "As the days go on, I will be able to be very reflective about what I saw and felt as we walked in the steps of the sisters that founded the Congregation. It was very touching."

Sr. JoAnn will go on retreat in August where she anticipates reflecting on this this trip and gaining a whole new perspective about the Congregation as she prepares for her first profession. 

"I've been hearing about Le Puy and the early sisters for three years now and after living here for five days I have a whole new experience of our beginnings. I'm sure it will deepen my commitment to the Congregation as I look at ways to know that this is the path God wants me to take."

"Le Puy is different from what I expected," said Sr. Jeanmarie, a professor of theology at Merrimack College near Boston. "It is much larger, for example. However, without a doubt, my indelible memory will be walking into that Kitchen and finding it an extremely simple place, a place that speaks of the ordinary. After all, the kitchen is an ordinary part of any home.

"What is so amazing is that the great love of God expanded from that Kitchen to the people of Le Puy and managed to stay alive and grow to the four corners of the earth even though it was often squelched. 

"I believe that the first sisters and that ordinary Kitchen have much to teach us in the United States at this particular time. I believe it is imperative for us to read the signs of the times wherever we find ourselves, particularly as we painfully let go of what has been--except that there will always be a place for the love of God and love of the dear neighbor."

Sr. Bernadette, who is a YouTube aficionado, prepared for the trip by finding websites about LePuy. Among them was a lecture by Sr. Simone who usually provides tours of The Kitchen

"My whole sense of Le Puy was its historical nature," said Sr. Bernadette, a retired teacher and finance director who currently works in a soup kitchen. "Also, so much of the good that the early sisters did was not done on their own but through other people--lay people and benefactors. We do this same thing today. What was most striking to me was the whole idea that the mission is accomplished not just by sisters but by the people we work with."

What Sr. Joan got out of this trip to Le Puy is the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the future will lead.

"To say that the early sisters were courageous is an understatement," said Sr. Joan, who is currently in congregational leadership and director of the St. Joseph the Worker Program. "I have felt a real connection to them by previously spending time with the story and Fr. Medaille's writings. It's as though today we are almost back to the foundation that started in Le Puy where we do our work for the great love of God with God and with neighbor. Given the state of our world today, we're still needed!"

As the sisters stood in The Kitchen on the same floor that the early sisters did, they paused for a brief prayer honoring the founders and asked for their guidance into the transitions of the 21st century.

While in Le Puy, the sisters also had an opportunity to participate in the Tour de France festivities as well as to partake in the delicious French food offered in town. They visited Notre Dame Cathedral and St. Joseph Basilica. They also took a day trip to Monistrol in the church where Jeanne Fontbonne and her blood sister entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Prior to coming to LePuy, the foursome spent two days in Paris. During the last days of their trip to France they will visit Lyon where Mother St. John Fontbonne re-founded the community in 1803 after the terror of the French Revolution had concluded. 

It has truly been an enlightening experience to spend time and conversation with these four beautiful sisters!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Tour de France Festival in Le Puy

The City of Le Puy has taken advantage of the Tour de France cyclists' rest day and created a day off and provided a festival for visitors and townspeople. We joined them amid the craft booths, music, restaurants and loads of people just hanging out in town. 

Occasionally, we would see a cyclist taking the day off--by cycling around town. Ya gotta love them!

Here are some photos of our time at the festival in Le Puy.

There were bands.


Cyclists in Baggy Pants

Curious and engaged children 

Local cows to provide local milk 

Local artisan honey

Local ice cream and sorbet. (Noisette is my favorite--it's hazelnut) 

Renaissance queens who will be there for the Bird Festival in September

A pistachio nun in a crêpe habit 

Beautiful swans in the city's central park

T-shirts for sale @ only 12 euros each; sorry they were all sold out before I could get one. C'est dommage!  :(

.....and a lunch of Le Puy green lentil salad with my new colleagues: Sr. Anita, Sr. Line and Sr. Eluiza. A perfect day!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

And Here They Come -- Tour de France in Le Puy

Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands won his first stage victory here in Le Puy, the end of the 15th stage of the Tour. Mollema is a professional cyclist currently riding for Trek–Segafredo.
According to the travel guidebooks, the French are not much into sports, at least not as much as Americans are. However, they love bicycling (and, of course, soccer). The Tour de France classic is one of the most coveted events of the year and on Sunday, July 16 at 5:30 p.m., Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands pumped his way onto Le Puy's main streets to complete the 15th stage of the tour. 

Le Puy was a welcome place on the Tour and a half-way rest stop of the 23-day tour that started on July 1 in Düsseldorf, Germany. It is slated to end July 23 on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This was the first time since 2005 that the Tour has come through Le Puy. The very first time the city hosted the Tour was in 1954.

The Tour started out with 198 young men on 22 teams dressed in short, tight pants, colorful corporate-sponsored shirts and matching shoes and crash helmets. The Tour wanders throughout the country, the Alps, the Pyrenees and not all of them are expected to finish. Due to slippery wet roads in the first of 21 stages of the tour, several riders fell off their bikes and 2 riders were knocked out completely. Eight riders withdrew in the 9th stage alone with one and two riders out in many of the other stages. Here is a complete list of the withdrawals. (To see the difficulty of the terrain, scroll down on this site.)   

While the crowd awaited the cyclists' arrival, a caravan of the Tour's sponsors (which sported each team's colors) created much excitement with floats. Cute young women on the floats danced to loud rock music while others threw out promotional gifts to onlookers. I was able to collect three hats, two inflatable pillows, four stir sticks, two Madeleines, two rulers and one box of juice. Pretty good for a rookie gringo! Here are some of my favorite floats.

As one can imagine, security was high with plenty of gendarme troopers and local and national police available to protect the cyclists and control the crowds. Helicopters also flew overhead on the route. Each section of cyclists was accompanied by motorcycle police (and cars with their bike racks). Fortunately, there were no incidents and everyone was loose and happy on this special day.

The motorcycle gendarme below waved a yellow flag and blew a whistle to warn cyclists of the road divide. I don't know how he was able to stay cool in a long-sleeve jacket, gloves and helmet. It was not a hot day, but being out in the sun for a long time could not have been easy. (It certainly wasn't easy for me!) Seeing these committed public servants at a major event like the Tour gave me an appreciation for them for the hard work they must do. 

I'm very pleased to have experienced the Tour de France!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Les Aventures de Mme. Beaubien: Bastille Day -- July 14

There's nothing like the parades, picnics, fireworks, Sousa marches and BBQ that we experience on the Fourth of July, but the French celebration of Bastille Day on July 14 is quite different.

In LePuy, it was a pretty low-key day. Most stores were closed and traffic was quiet and at a minimum. People took the day as another opportunity for leisure on this long weekend. After all, the Tour de France would be coming soon and people were perhaps saving up their energy and excitement for that. In the evening, however, we were treated to a 30-minute fireworks display near Notre Dame, the church built on top of an ancient volcano that is topped off by a statue of the Blessed Mother. It was your typical fireworks show except that for me, this year, it was in France. 

The real action on this day was in Paris. This year was different in that newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron entertained newly-elected U.S. President Donald Trump in a show of unity between our nation and France. Macron's invitation to Trump also marked the 100th anniversary of America's entrance into World War I. 

The two-hour parade down the Champs-Élysées included thousands of French troops, 241 horses, 62 airplanes and 29 helicopters all marking the storming of the Bastille military prison in 1789, the turning point in the French Revolution. About 150 U.S. soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines (see photo above) dressed in the uniform of the time participated as American aircraft  maintained a flyover the parade route along with the "Patrouille de France" who typically let loose with a dramatic trail red, white and blue signifying the French flag.

As ceremonial as the day was supposed to be, most of the media focused on the leaders' handshakes and Trump's indiscreet and undiplomatic remark about what good shape Macron's wife was. Oh well, we've learned to expect such obsessive concerns on the little things when it comes to the relationship between Trump and the press. 

After the parade and talks, which amounted to five hours between Trump and Macron, the most time Trump has spent with a foreign leader thus far, the president and his wife, Melanie, took off for home and Macron and his wife made their way to Nice to participate in memorial ceremonies of the 86 lives lost last year there when a huge truck sped through a crowd celebrating France's Bastille Day. Fireworks displays there had been banned for this year, and the cannon traditionally fired for Bastille Day was silent. First-responder heroes were recognized with medals and the whole ceremony was somber, low-key and dignified out of respect for the victims of the tragedy. Quite a contrast to the celebratory nature of the day.

However, the evening celebration in Paris featured an impressive concert of classical music performed by the Orchestre National de France, the Choeur de Radio France and the Maîtrise de Radio France who accompanied several well-known international opera singersThe music mostly included arias from famous operas like PagliacciLa BohèmeDon Carlos as well as orchestral pieces like "The Gates of Kiev," "Boléro" and the theme from the film, Chariots of Fire. A large choir of children in white tops and black bottoms backed up by a large choir of adults in formal wear sang a couple pieces. In all, the music was breath-taking with a concluding rendition of a most beautiful national anthem, "La Marseillaise" as all on stage and in the 600,000+ audience sang together (see YouTube below).

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms citizens Form your battalions
March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows

The evening ended with a climatic 37-minute fireworks display (feu d'artifice) that interacted with the Eiffel Tower accompanied by jazzy recorded music that included "I Love Paris" by Frank Sinatra. C'etait magnifique

Sr. Line made three batches of popcorn--with butter--as our staff and the four sisters from New York munched on this treat and witnessed the evening's shows both on TV and outside our front door. It was truly an evening to remember.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Les Aventures de Mme. Beaubien: Tour de France Comes to Le Puy

The 2017 Tour de France, cycling’s Grand Tour classic, is coming through LePuythis weekend and already making a splash as shopkeepers and city leaders have dressed their windows and the city’s streets in anticipation of the event.                                                                                            

 The 3,540 km (2,200 mile) race began in Düsseldorf, Germany on July 1 with 198 riders from 22 teams. It will conclude on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 23. Riders will come through historic LePuy July 15-17 with a two-day stop.

Each squad is allowed a maximum of nine riders. Of these, 49 are riding the Tour de France for the first time.The average age of riders in the race is 29.39 years and they come from 32 countries. The Tour de France began in France in 1903 and has been held annually except during World War I and II. Although riders were French originally, they now come from all over the globe. The Tour is a UCI World Tour event, which means that the teams that compete in the race are mostly UCI World Teams with the exception of those teams the organizers invite.

The Tour de France is an annual multiple stage bicycle race primarily held in France,but also in neighboring countries. It was first organized in 1903 to increase sales for the newspaper L'Auto, which is currently run by the Amaury Sport Organisation. The race has been held annuallyexcept during World War I and II. As the Tour gained prominence and popularity, the race was lengthened and its reach began to extend around the globe.

The Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia (begun in 1909) and Vuelta a España (begun in 1935) make up cycling's prestigious, three-week-long Grand Tours. The Tour de France is considered the most prestigious of the three by fans and riders alike. Although the route changes each year, its format remains the same and it always passes through the Pyrenees and the Alps and finishes on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Les Aventures de Mme. Beaubien: Je Suis Arrivee

At long last I have arrived in Le Puy!!

After a 14.5 hour plane ride, I landed in Lyon, France, to be met by the Sisters Line, Eluisa and Anita of the International Centre of the Sisters of St. Joseph. 

My flight was very smooth and on time. The only trouble was getting into Lyon. We experienced bad, overcast clouds and stormy weather and an extremely bumpy ride. We circled the city for about 20 minutes with the possibility that we would have to return to our starting point, London, but the clouds cleared and we arrived safely only half an hour late.

Customs was very long and slow but once I passed through the border (la frontera), I saw the sisters who greeted me with great excitement. Line found a parking space very close to the exit and off we went--only to meet a bouchon (traffic jam)--and several more along the way to LePuy. 

I hadn't eaten since breakfast (10 a.m.) and fortunately by 7 p.m. we were all hungry and stopped for salad and sandwich along the road. 

Finally, we reached the Centre--at 11 p.m. and were greeted with a luminescent full moon and a quiet and cool night. Merveilleux!! We stood outside the Centre for a few minutes to take in the night. As usual, Notre Dame (center) was lit up and so was St. Michael (foreground), which was very eerie seeing it from the back. The lights changed and when it turned blue, it looked like a medieval picture.

Here is front-facing St. Michael, which I haven't yet seen.

As I made ready to sleep under the clear sky of stars, moon and illuminated churches, the cats of the neighborhood called to one another as if in song. I fell asleep in a prone position and slept through the night very comfortably in my new room in France. I have arrived. I am safe. And, I am content.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

On to France - at last!

Finally, it's time to go to France!!  The long wait is over and I'm heading east for the next 2 years.

My plane leaves Detroit on Sunday, July 9 at 8:30 p.m. and after a couple stops, it will arrive in Lyon on Monday, July 10 at 5 p.m. The sisters at the International Centre will greet me at the airport--and my two 18"-cubed boxes filled with clothes and things that I sent three weeks ago will be waiting for me in my new home.

I'll arrive in France in time for le 14 juillet (Bastille Day a.k.a. French 4th of July) although I won't be in Paris. Le Puy is a small village 2.5 hours southwest by train from Lyon. We'll see how they celebrate this important holiday.

A few days later  the Tour de France will come to Le Puy. That should be exciting to see a world classic up close.

I plan to continue blogging Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien--and to get real serious about speaking and listening to French. Wish me luck with that.