Though Monte Cassino in Italy claims that they have St. Benedict's relics, they have not produced anything, and there is a strong tradition of the relics having been moved to France for safekeeping. Anyway, we venerated the relics after the mass for the day. The mass was a strange mixture of old and new, (like much in France) with chanted propers and common parts of the mass, and random elements like the faithful placing their own host in the ciborium of clay, etc. Odd, to say the least. I had noticed, both at St. Benoit and Chartres, that though there was a monastic presence, it was severely curtailed in comparison to what had once been. It was as if monastic living was withering with age and harsh exposure in the modern world. The somewhat bizarre juxtaposition of modern liturgical practices with Gregorian Chant only served to accentuate the diminishing of Benedictine glory.
After St. Benoit, we drove another few hours until we reached the town of Nevers, where we prayed before the body of St. Bernadette Soubirous. The Saint is preserved for public veneration in a shrine at the convent she had joined (the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity)
partly in order to flee the publicity in Lourdes. Her body is incorrupt,
with the slight discolorations of the skin covered over with a light wax
mask. One can easily discern her character by regarding her coun-
tenance, one of determination and stern resolution, yet one of devotion.
After shopping for a picnic dinner in Nevers, we continued on to our evening destination, Autun. Autun is a fascinating location, settled by the Romans, once under Moslem control before Charles Martel defeated them near Tours. It was also the home of the military school where Napoleon studied, and learned French as a nine-year-old. We stayed on the outskirts of town and did not go exploring due to a migraine on my part. It did provide an opportunity for one of my favorite pictures from the trip, of the Cathédrale Saint-Lazare d'Autun at night. Stay tuned for more.