Why might some Catholics find it hard to
imagine the Roman Catholic Church without France (previously a province of the Roman Empire which was formerly called Gaul+)?
Why might some Catholics want to travel to France or even learn the French language?
Here are some possible reasons...
* France has long been considered the 'eldest
daughter of the Church'
* France has been considered 'quite Roman'...
"...the rapid Romanization of Gaul proceeded with
little further interruption. Over the several centuries to come, Gaul, in fact,
became more Roman than Rome itself. Roman colonization was permissive and
liberal, and for the most part, the Gauls were eager enough to identify
themselves with the prestigious empire that for a time promised the material
advances and the cultural rewards of a highly civilized society and orderly rule
- even if that meant paying taxes. The Gauls discarded their distinctive
breeches for Roman togas and cropped their long hair in the Roman style, as did
the Romanized Britons across the Channel; they gave themselves and their cities
Roman names. In France today, one cannot go far without finding tangible
evidence of that eager adoption of Roman ways. Provence, Rome’s first southern
province in Gaul, is studded with well-preserved and restored monuments from the
* France received the faith dating back to
"The faith is said by some to have been planted in
part of Gaul by St. Luke, and especially by St. Crescens, a disciple of St.
"The faith of Christ was propagated in that part
of Gaul in the times of the apostles, and from thence soon reached Vienne and
* 'Long-standing legend' has it that St. Mary
Magdalene and Martha & Lazarus fled the holy lands and arrived in France. The
first Catholic Church in France may have been founded by St. Maximinus (Maximin)
who arrived along with them. Lazarus is believed to have become the first bishop
of Marseille, France
"[St. Maximin, 1st century] A tradition dating
from the earliest times avers that this St. Maximin, the first Bishop of Aix in
Provence, was a Palestinian, one of the disciples of Our Lord, and that he
accompanied SS. Martha and Magdalen, with their brother Lazarus to the South of
France. The body of St. Maximin was enshrined in the church of the small
neighbouring town which bears his name; but was subsequently translated to the
Cathedral of Aix. Another tradition adds that St. Maximin was the man born blind
to whom Christ gave sight (John 9.)."
"[St. Lazarus, 1st century:] The disciple and
friend of our Lord, by Him raised from the dead (John 11.). Although the Greek
historians allege that he passed from this world in the Island of Cyprus, it has
been a constant belief in the West that, with his holy sisters, Mary and Martha,
he journeyed into Gaul and was the first Apostle of the South of France, he
himself becoming Bishop of Marseilles. Of this city, as of others in France, he
is held to be the Patron Saint."
* Written records of Catholicism in France (by St.
Irenaeus, a disciple of St. Polycarp who was a hearer of St. John the
Apostle) date back to the 2nd century – which is
great for apologetics with recently founded so-called 'Christian' religions!
* "...French historians observe, that Pepin
in France was the first Christian king who (in imitation of the Jewish kings by
God’s appointment) was anointed at his coronation..."
* Clovis furthered relations with the Catholic
"The most important single episode in the
religious struggle that followed was the conversion of Clovis, king of the
Salian Franks, in 496. Clovis swore to his Christian wife (the only Christian
princess in Gaul) that if her god [God] helped him defeat the Alamanni in
battle, he would consent to be baptized. Clovis (a name that would become Louis)
was, indeed, victorious, and he kept his word, whereupon 3,000 of his warriors
followed his lead. The king was baptized and anointed with holy oil by the
bishop of Reims, a gesture that for centuries to come was to give divine
sanction to the French monarchy.
With Clovis’s victory, the reunification of
Roman-Gallic territory as the Frankish kingdom was begun. Also, the alliance of
that kingdom with the Church was established, a liaison that laid the
foundations of medieval history. In 507, Clovis launched a great campaign
against the Goths who had settled on the land to the south, between the Loire
River and the Pyrenees. It was, in fact, a Christian crusade, for the Goths held
to unorthodox doctrines. 'With God’s help,' Clovis is said to have announced,
'let us go and conquer them and take their territories.' That he did,
accompanied by miraculous signs of divine favor. And with that further victory,
a new Catholic state formed in the West and spread eastward across the Rhine,
following Frankish conquests. At Constantinople, the Eastern emperor, Anastasius,
recognized Clovis’s authority and conferred upon him the insignia of a Roman
magistrate. The Christian Frankish chief had taken the place of the ancient
emperors in the Western world, and he chose Paris as the most strategic spot for
his capital. With these circumstances, the French nation was conceived."
was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire ("forming the political and
religious foundations of Christendom in Europe and establishing in earnest the
French government's long historical association with the Catholic Church")...
"The climax of his career came when, at Rome on
Christmas Day [800 A.D.], the pope crowned him the first Holy Roman Emperor."
* Roman Catholicism was the state religion of
France for many centuries (until the French Revolution)
* As one history book of France states, "The
history of France remained intimately and inseparably linked with the history of
* France has a rich history of saints,
including the following who may have been born, lived, or worked/served there...
St. Benedict Joseph Labre
St. Bernadette Soubirous
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Catherine Laboure
St. Francis de Sales
St. Hilary of Poitiers
St. Irenaeus of Lyon
St. Isaac Jogues
St. Joan of Arc
St. John Eudes
St. John Vianney
St. Louis de Montfort
St. Louis IX
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
St. Peter Julian Eymard
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Vincent de Paul
St. William of Bourges
Even the great St. Patrick readied in France before
returning to Ireland (he was prepared
for his mission by the bishop of Gaul, St. Germanus). And the unparalleled St. Thomas Aquinas also studied in
"To the University of Paris also came the Italian Saint Thomas Aquinas to study
with the famed German scholar Albertus Magnus in preparation for the compilation
of his great Summa Theologica. This work was nothing less than a summation of
all the knowledge available at the time, compiled and designed to support the
Christian faith against all doubts and controversy. It was one of the supreme
achievements of the Middle Ages."
France's long history of saints traces back early
on. For example... [Warning: Graphic content]
"[I]n Paris, around [250 A.D.], a Christian
missionary named Denis had his head chopped off because his proselytizing zeal
offended those who worshiped other gods. But he picked it up, we are told, and
carried it in his arms until he found nearby his eternal resting place. Within
three centuries, a Christian basilica was raised over the site, seven miles
north of the center of Paris, to glorify his martyrdom. Denis became the patron
saint of France, and the monastery of Saint-Denis, dedicated to his memory,
became the richest and most important in the country - the burial place for
kings, queens, princes, and nobles of the realm. The hilltop where Denis had
been murdered, the highest point in what is now the city of Paris... became
known as the Mount of the Martyrs, or Montmartre..."
"Hardly more than a century after the martyrdom of
Denis, an ex-soldier named Martin, converted to Christianity after he had given
half of his cloak to a beggar at Amiens and thereupon had a vision, won such
prodigious fame by evangelizing the countryside and organizing its religious
life that today hundreds of French towns and thousands of French churches still
carry his name. By the time of his death, about [400 A.D.], Christianity
[Catholicism] was firmly established in all the influential quarters of the
This same St. Martin worked miracles in France...
"The utter extirpation of idolatry out of the
diocese of Tours and all that part of Gaul, was the fruit of the edifying piety,
miracles, and zealous labors and instructions of St. Martin."
As did other saints – even the Portuguese
St. Antony (Anthony) of Padua worked a miracle in France...
"When he was one day going to begin his sermon to
a most numerous assembly in the fields in France, the sky was on a sudden
covered with thick clouds, and violent claps of thunder presaged a dreadful
storm. The people began to disperse, and run to the neighboring city. But the
saint encouraged them to stay, and by his prayers obtained that the audience, as
if they had been covered with an invisible canopy, felt nothing of the dreadful
shower of rain and hail, while the neighboring fields and highways were covered
with a deluge."
Also, note that more than 10% of all
Doctors of the Church at the time of this writing
have a connection to France...
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church
St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Doctor of the Church
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church
* Avignon, France has the unique distinction of
being the temporary home of the papacy in the 14th century
* A number of popes have been from France.
According to Wiki (as of 2023) there have been 16 popes from France (which is
higher than the number of popes from any other nation besides Italy)
* France also has a rich history of religious
orders, for example...
Cistercians - Founded in France
Dominicans - Founded in France
Marianists - Originated in France
Norbertines - Founded in France
Trinitarians - Founded in France
* The Apostleship of Prayer was founded in
"[Apostleship of Prayer;] A pious association
otherwise known as a league of prayer in union with the Heart of Jesus. It was
founded at Vals, France, in 1844 by Francis X. Gautrelet. It owes its popularity
largely to the Reverend Henry Ramière, S.J., who in 1861, adapted its
organization for parishes and various Catholic institutions, and made it known
by his book 'The Apostleship of Prayer,' which has been translated into many
languages. In 1879 the association received its first statutes, approved by Pius
IX, and in 1896 these were revised and approved by Leo XIII."
* The feast of Corpus Christi originated in France
* Several Marian apparitions with Church approval
have occurred in France, including...
Rue du Bac, Paris (1830)
La Salette (1846)
* Various beloved devotions/sacramentals may be
tied back to France...
Sacred Heart revelations were received in France
(From Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque)
The Miraculous Medal originated in France (From
the Blessed Virgin Mary's apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré)
The Green Scapular originated in France (From the Blessed
Virgin Mary's apparitions to Sister Justine Bisqueyburo)
The Holy Rosary in its traditional form originated
"Tradition and the popes also tell us that the
devotion of the Rosary was first revealed to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin
in France at the beginning of the 13th century, where Our Lady appeared to him
and commanded him to preach the Rosary. She is said to have given St. Dominic
beads and taught him how to use them. He was commissioned by the Blessed Virgin
to preached the use of the Rosary among the Albigensians (heretics of the time
who rejected the Incarnation and who were given to suicide). The results were
startling and miraculous; The powerful 'weapon' of the Rosary was used to
convert the heretics and put a sudden end to their heresy." (History
of the Rosary/MCS)
And of course, the healing waters of Lourdes,
* "It was in France also that the perpetual
adoration of the Eucharist began."
* France may house (or have housed) important relics such as...
Crown of Thorns (Paris)
Blessed Virgin Mary's tunic (Chartres)
Head of St. John the Baptist (Amiens)
Other relics may include those of St. Vincent de
Paul, St. Anne, and St. Thomas Aquinas, plus the incorrupt relics of St.
Catherine Laboure & St. Bernadette Soubirous.
* France has housed miraculous images such as...
"[Our Lady of Arcachon:] A miraculous image
venerated at Arcachon, France, and to all appearances the work of the thirteenth
century. Carved from a block of alabaster about twenty inches in height, it
represents Our Lady clad in Oriental drapery, holding the Divine Infant on her
right arm. Blessed Thomas Illyricus of Osimo (b. about the middle of the
fifteenth century) a Franciscan who had retired to the forest solitude of
Arcachon, is said to have found this statue on the seashore, much battered by
the waves. He immediately constructed a wooden chapel, replaced, a century
later, by a spacious stone sanctuary, but this, in turn, was so menaced by the
drifting sands of the dunes as to necessitate the erection of a new church
(1723) on a neighbouring hill overlooking the Bay of Arcachon. The statue
survived both revolutions and was granted the honour of a coronation by a brief
of Pius IX, 15 July, 1870."
* France is also home to at least one 'miraculous
"[Notre Dame des Anges/Our Lady of the Angels:] A
miraculous shrine near Lur, France, containing a crypt (Sainte Chapelle) which
tradition dates back to an early period. Archeological finds, inscriptions, and
the records left by antiquaries give evidence that this was once the site of a
Roman colony and a station termed in ancient itineraries, Alaunium (founded 150
B.C.). Situated as it was on a Roman road connecting cities which are believed
to have been evangelized at an early period, Alaunium probably received the
Faith at the same time. There is an ancient tradition to the effect that one of
the immediate disciples of Christ erected an oratory here in honour of the
Mother of God, and that it took the name Alaunium, later contracted into Aulun.
Though several chapels were built on this site and destroyed, an ancient tablet
survived all calamities. On the occasion of a cure wrought before this tablet (2
August, 1665) a choir of angels, it is said, was heard singing; on the
repetition of the marvel the following year the name of the shrine was changed
to Our Lady of Angels, and it was placed in charge of the Recollect Fathers of
St Francis. In 1752 Bishop Lafiteau of Sisteron instituted the feast of the
Relatives of Mary, making this sanctuary a centre of the devotion. In 1791 the
religious were expelled, and the church despoiled. On the reopening of the
churches the pilgrimages recommenced, and still continue. The most important of
them takes place on 2 August."
* France is also known for rich church architecture...
"'In the single century between 1170 and 1270,' wrote Henry Adams, with
wonder, 'the French built eighty cathedrals and nearly 500 churches of the
cathedral class...and this covered only the great churches of a single
century.' Happily, the French countryside today still bears ample witness to
that remarkable achievement - at Chartres, Reims, Bourges, Amiens, Laon, and
Rouen; at Sens, Strasbourg, Noyon, Meaux, and other sites where great webs of
masonry and colored glass still thrust their towers toward the skies, lasting
memorials to the centuries of faith and enterprise. When the Romanesque church
at Chartres burned in 1194, it was decided to rebuild it - in the Gothic style -
with the confident expectation that its principal relic, the Virgin’s tunic
salvaged from the fire, would attract enough pilgrims bearing gifts to cover the
expense. And so it happened. The 'new' Chartres that rose from the ashes became
one of the most celebrated of all Gothic structures."
In fact, it may be noted that "Gothic art and
architecture....was essentially a French creation..."
* France, whose landmass is less than that of the state of Texas++,
is reportedly home to "more than 100 cathedrals and large abbeys."
"many of France's landmarks are named after saints" and many
locations in France make a great place for Catholic pilgrimages!
* France is also known for its rich cultural & artistic
heritage ("French traditions in the fine arts are deep and rich")
* A French priest/monk, Dom Gueranger, authored
most of the 'monumental' multi-volume work called "The Liturgical Year", and
France is also connected with the popular Douay Rheims translation of the Holy
France has also been important in world history.
This "overwhelmingly Roman Catholic" nation may boast of...
* Having one of the largest GDPs in world
* Being 'the most visited country in the world'
France had "long been the most populous nation in
Europe..." and "...until the late 1700s, France remained the most populous
nation of the Western world."
is only "one of a handful of nations that possess nuclear weapons" and it is full
of variety and natural resources...
"Taken as a whole, France displays a greater
variety of natural features than virtually any other European country - lush
river valleys, wooded hills, fertile plains, marshes, mountains, and varied
shore-lands - a fact that has played a significant part in French history. Over
the millenniums, before and since Strabo’s description, those diverse and
agreeable aspects of the land have attracted settlers and plunderers, migrants
and conquerors, merchants and adventurers from all quarters of the Continent and
France has also been called "one of the most
fascinating and influential nations in the world" and "one of the richest and most powerful countries
in the world."
It is also been said that "...the courts and
monasteries of France played a pivotal role in the development and refining of
what is more generally defined as 'western culture'".
France was also instrumental in helping America become
independent from England, and France was one of the first colonizers of
"The European nations which settled the continent
of America after its discovery by Columbus, and exerted the greatest influence
on the civilization of the New World, were principally five. They rank, in point
of date, as follows: Spain, Portugal, France, England, Holland."
And France's assistance to America came at a great
"It would be too simple to claim that revolution
was the price France paid for American independence. Yet, the disturbances in
France did stem in good part from debts the French government incurred by
supporting America’s revolt against England."
We may likewise owe France for 'the preservation of
Catholicism' as the first crusade was launched in France and...
"Although the crusading fervor rapidly spread to
other countries, it was, from the start, a French phenomenon."
[Some important notes from our apologetics page
here concerning the crusades...
"All who call themselves 'Christian' today
should realize that they may never heard of Jesus if it wasn't for the Crusades.
Of course, that's not to say that everything that happened in connection with
them was good, but if they had not happened, you might be Muslim today. This is
simply a fact of history."
"Unfortunately, loss of life may be expected in
all military conflicts. This loss of life, however, should not be considered in
isolation when determining whether any particular conflict is justified.
Remember that the Crusades were largely a defensive measure (and not a plan to
make converts, contrary to the claims of some) which 'occurred after six hundred
years of constant provocation'. Remember that the Church's enemies had brutally
treated people, enslaved children, destroyed property, and taken over lands
(including the holy lands). They forced conversions, persecuted people, and
threatened more takeovers. It was many years before the Church took this
military action. Is it not ironic that her enemies attempt to portray her as
'bloodthirsty' when these hundreds of years of persecution seem more to attest
to her great patience? And, if certain events occurred during this time in which
there was excessive bloodshed, why is the Church as a whole, rather than the
individuals responsible, to be blamed? Certainly the Church never condones
excessive violence. In fact, she would rather seek to punish her children who
were guilty of wrongful violence."]
Although the Catholic France of the past, sadly, may not
be manifest at present, it is likewise true that there have been signs of hope
even in present times. For
example, consider the annual Chartres pilgrimage ('the flagship event of
Traditional Catholicism worldwide') in France.
Also, the international
Traditional Latin Mass supporting Una Voce was founded in Paris, France.
It is said that Catholic tradition is 'flourishing' in France. In fact, France has been
called "one of the world's leading centers of Catholic traditionalism."
Given the above, it is easy to see why Catholics
may find it hard to imagine the Catholic Church without France! And the above
may also help testify to some of the many reasons Catholics may long to make a
visit/pilgrimage to France.
And as for the beautiful French language...
* French is one of the major languages in the world
* French was once "THE language of diplomacy" and
it is still spoken by many people (at the time of this writing, Wiki puts it as
the 5th most spoken language in the world, with 310 million total speakers)
* The 'vast majority' of French words reportedly
come from Latin (the Church's 'official language')
* French has a long history...
"Although Latin was the language of the universities, the French tongue had won
wide currency since the grandsons of Charlemagne first gave it official
recognition in their treaty of 842. French crusaders and the French traders who
followed them helped spread their vernacular throughout the Mediterranean world.
French was becoming Europe’s lingua franca. As Dante’s master pointed out,
French was spoken in the Holy Land, in Sicily, in Naples (which the Normans had
conquered), and at the English court. Marco Polo wrote in French, and in 1206,
Saint Francis of Assisi (named Francesco, or Frenchman, because his Italian
father, Pietro Bernardone, was on a business trip in France when he was born)
went off into the woods joyously singing a French song to herald the kingdom of
* English speakers may be interested to know that
'nearly half' of commonly used English words are reportedly of French origin (in
fact, a number of English words are identical to their French counterparts)
* Although a subjective judgment, French has been
considered "one of the most beautiful languages in the world" and is "obviously
famous" for "sounding nice" to many English speakers. Some claim that the
"aesthetic power" of French is "undeniable"
And Catholics who are able to read French might
find it a special treat to read French saints' writings in their native language
(for example St. Thérèse's writings).
For those looking to 'improve their brain' by
learning another language, French might be an excellent choice!
Que Dieu bénisse la France ! (May God bless
[Note: We do not endorse/recommend any
publication / author / publisher / etc., even if referenced herein.]
+ Gaul is "the area roughly
approximating today's France"
++ France is "considerably
smaller than the state of Texas." (Dav.)
(BoS) - Book of Saints
(Butlr.) - Butler's Lives of
(CathDict.) - Catholic
(CathEnc.) - Catholic
(Dav.) - Davidson (1972/2017)
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