During my pilgrimage tour to France in 2019 I was sorry not to have the time to find the shrine to St Jean de Brebeuf that I had learned was hidden in the Normandy countryside, so on this visit to Normandy I asked my marvelous host, Gavin Ashenden if we could go there.
So on a rainy morning we set off to the village of Conde-sur-Vire. We found the parish church and a local parishioner told us that she knew the woman who had the key so we drove to the tow of St. Lo for lunch, then headed back to the shrine. St Jean de Brebeuf was more in 1593 in a tiny farming hamlet a few miles outside the village. It was in ruins, but rediscovered in the 1990s when a little chapel was built there to his honor, and attached to the ruins of the farm cottage where he was born they built a nice little visitor’s center. This was completed for the 400th anniversary of his birth in 1993.
I was especially interested in St Jean de Brebeuf as we have a stained glass window in our new church. Go here to view. We now also have a first class relic along with one of St Gabriel Lalamant and St Charles Garnier.
In the chapel they had a splendid reliquary with relics of a collection of Jesuits–including Edmund Campion. To learn more about Jean de Brebeuf go here
The best biography of the saint is Saint Among the Hurons
While we have been out and about Gavin has been busy fielding interviews from all over the place regarding the death of Queen Elizabeth. In his Anglican days Gavin was a chaplain to the Queen, and he one of the few who also has media experience and contacts so while driving along the French highway and byways he has been chatting away with numerous radio shows and newspaper reporters all of whom are hungry for more news items and information about the queen and the royal family. It has been very interesting to be here at this time and to hear his particular take on these historic events.
Speaking of which, our trip to Conde sur Vire took us through the countryside that the Allied troops invaded in the summer of 1944. I couldn’t help but ask our elderly guides to the Jean de Brebeuf shrine if they remembered the events. Their eyes lit up as they recounted their memories. Madame Aubry said she was ten years old. Her husband was twelve. She said they sat on the roof of the barn and watched the Jeeps with their stars bouncing by with the young GIs whistling and singing. M. Aubry said he remembered cheering the troops and that they gave him bubblegum–something a kid in France in the 1940s had, of course, never heard of. With a surprising lump in my throat I said my uncle was one of those young men.
Normandy is my favorite region of France–so rich in history, so rich in saints, so rich in the Catholic faith.
Tomorrow we will pay a visit to Mont St Michel.
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