French Knights Pray in Solidarity
3/8/2019By Andrew Fowler
Knights in France lead Masses after string of vandalism against 10 Catholic churches
Parishioners of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles, France, found the altar cross on the ground and the celebrant’s chair damaged, reported Aleteia. A few day later, a statue of the Blessed Mother was smashed. Then, the tabernacle in the church was pushed over. This parish wasn’t the only victim.
Since the beginning of February, at least 10 Catholic churches in France were similarly targeted.
According to Catholic News Agency, in some churches the Eucharist was destroyed while in others altar clothes were burned and crosses torn down. LaCroix International reported that churches in Nimes, Lavaur, Houilles and Dijon were attacked in the same week.
“Catholics and the whole French public was shocked,” said Arnaud Boutheon, a member of the Knights of Columbus Charles de Foucauld Council 16502 in France. “Catholic Churches are the sign of our spiritual heritage, the visible sign of our Christian roots.”
When the Knights of Columbus in France heard about the vandalism, their first action was to gather together in prayer.
“In front of these attacks against faith and sacred places, the first thing to do is pray, offer this suffering, tell the truth, expose the facts with a responsible voice with no revenge and mourning spirit, but with dignity,” Boutheon said.
The Knights of Columbus is the largest fraternal Catholic organization in the world with over 1.9 million members throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, South Korea and France.
Knights and chaplains of the 16 councils in France quickly mobilized to organize Masses in their parishes, inviting more than 320 members to pray in solidarity on Feb. 19. They prayed for peace, forgiveness and hope as well as for strength in the face of adversity.
“When you are attacked so painfully in what is the most precious in your life, you need silence and dignity,” Boutheon said.
Boutheon and the Knights see these attacks as an opportunity to promote the faith and prayer in a country that has seen its share of violent attacks in recent years, including ISIS murdering a priest in 2016.
“As citizens and patriots, we will act to alert the public opinion about this aggression and help our priests to protect their buildings,” Boutheon said. “As Catholics, we also know that we will find interior peace not in activism but in prayer.”
Boutheon sees the Knights of Columbus as an “answer to a new generation of faithful young French Catholics,” that can help bring spiritual healing to those parishes that were the targets of vandalism.
“[Young Catholics] discovered the prophetic vision of Father McGivney as an answer for our times,” Boutheon said. “There is this spiritual move of letting peace and forgiveness substitute fear and resentment. This move of ‘mastering of ourselves’ is eminently knightly, as sign for true men.”
The Knights will continue serving the Church in France, “shoulder-to-shoulder” with their brother Knights, Boutheon said. They are leading pilgrimages to famous shrines and to Cotignac, the site of a Marian apparition that occurred 500 years ago.
“With joy and simplicity, in our families, around our parishes and beyond, we will serve in [Jesus’] name, on his behalf. This is our vocation of true Catholic men,” Boutheon said.
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