This is a nice account, by Father Robert Weiss, S.J., of our "class trip" group of five celebrating 60 years in the Society of Jesus. Bob wrote this diary bit to share with his friends interested in such things. Evidently he covered all the bases in a documented order that I couldn't match; so it is with his kind permission that I include this complete document of his in this BLOG of SCOLASTORY, Enjoy!
“A 60TH ANNIVERSARY
AS A JESUIT”
TRIP TO PARIS, FRANCE
March 16 to 22, 2006
AS WRITTEN BY FATHER ROBERT WEISS, S.J. to share with his friends.
About the middle of the 2005 year several of us who had entered the Society of Jesus in 1946 talked about a possible reunion in the summer of 2006. I undertook to contact the members of our class and to make arrangements for us to meet at Jesuit Hall in St. Louis, May 19 to 21, 2006. One of our class members, Father Lee Lubbers, a very creative and energetic Jesuit, suggested that maybe a few of us would want to do something more dramatic for this anniversary celebration - - in addition to our St. Louis gathering.
This happens also to be a special Jubilee Year for us Jesuits - - the 450th Anniversary of the death of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and the 500th anniversary of the birth of his two companions, roommates at the University of Paris, St. Francis Xavier and blessed Peter Faber. These three and four other students at the University of Paris, all influenced by Ignatius, took vows of poverty and chastity and formed the Company of Jesus which in a few years became a new religious order in the Catholic Church, the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits.
We decided it would be a wonderful way to celebrate our 60th anniversary if those who wished could obtain the necessary permission from our superiors. Then we searched for some favorable off-season airfares and decided to fly to Paris and renew our vows at the very spot where St. Ignatius and his companions first vowed to give their lives to Christ. We could stay at the large Jesuit house in Paris which is equipped to accommodate Jesuit visitors from around the world.
Fortunately, Fr. Lubbers, one of our class members, had studied at the Sorbonne - - the University of Paris - - obtained his doctorate there and returned to Paris many times since. He is the founder and for many years the director and now the “Global Resources Strategist” for SCOLA, a non-profit organization that picks up television broadcasts from some 120 different nations and rebroadcasts them for the use of many hundreds of colleges and universities around the world as a help in language and other studies. He was in a great position not only to be our guide, but to open many other doors for us. A close friend of his, Henri Hervè, offered to be our chauffer for the week and the superior of St. Francis Xavier Jesuit Community at 42 rue de Grenelle welcomed us with open arms.
Besides the four of us who are celebrating our 60th anniversary - - Frs. LEE LUBBERS, BENNO KORNELY, KEN WALLEMAN, and myself - - Fr. CLETUS PFAB, celebrating his 50th anniversary, joined us. He and the others, except me, are all members of the Wisconsin Province and are stationed in Omaha, Milwaukee and Detroit.
About mid-day on March 16th a Saint Louis University security car picked me up at Jesuit Hall and took me to the Grand Avenue Metrolink station. (This is a service they perform when the University is not in session or when the campus shuttle which operates 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on class days is not in service, which happened on this particular day because of spring break. This is a wonderful service indeed.) My plane was even a bit early on this first leg from St. Louis to Chicago O’Hare where we five planned to meet. I did not see the others until I had boarded the plane - - and lo and behold, Fr. Lubbers was not there. They told me that his plane had been delayed, but they thought surely he would make it. Alas, he did not. Of course, we speculated about what had happened, but realized we could do nothing about it. The 8-hour overnight flight was very smooth, for the most part, on the American Airlines 767 Flight, but because it had been delayed to wait for some late connecting passengers and also for de-icing, we were about an hour late in departing and landing. A good meal was served after we left in the evening and a light breakfast before we arrived. There were three movies, but I chose to try to catch some sleep which I did. My seat companion, Fr. Kornely, thought the first one, “Pride and Prejudice” was good, but both of the others were complete losers.
Our guide, Henri, was to meet us at Charles de Gaule Airport, but we had no idea what he looked like nor did he know us since all the plans depended upon our missing companion. After about an hour of searching, we decided to take a cab to rue de Grenelle. (Incidentally, we breezed through immigration, simply showing the agent our passport and getting the passport and immigration card stamped. There was no customs check at all.) The cab fare was not too bad, considering the distance and that the 60 Euros tab was split four ways.
The guest master at the Jesuit residence received us warmly and showed us to our room – simple, but quite comfortable with shower and toilet just down the hall. We were just in time for “lunch,” which is the main meal of the day. It was Friday, so we had fish, potatoes and green beans after a delicious soup (barley and beans, I think) and salad. Every meal includes delicious French bread (long, thin loaves) and a variety of cheeses, plus an assortment of fruit and today we had pudding for dessert. My plan to avoid jet lag is not to sleep on the day of arrival, West to East, but to try to get a good, long sleep the first night there. Right after lunch we discovered that our driver and guide had come to the residence, after waiting a couple of hours at the airport, but he had left to get a sandwich and would be back in a half hour. It gave us a few minutes for the assistant guest master to show us around the house to explain the ingenious security system, and to show us the view of Paris from the top of the 8-story building.
We decided that a good use of this first afternoon without Fr. Lubbers, would be to visit Sainte-Chapelle, the royal worship place of many kings of France and a personal undertaking of King Louis IX., patron of St. Louis. It was constructed in six years, 1242 – 1248, and was built to house the relics of Christ’s Passion, especially the Crown of Thorns. The ordinary people attended Mass in the Lower Chapel, a rather attractive setting, but the royal family used the Upper Chapel adorned with stunningly beautiful 6,438 square feet of stained glass windows. We were all awed by and pleased with this first “sight” in Paris.
When we returned to rue de Grenelle we found that Fr. Lubbers had arrived. Of course, he had missed his plane connection in Chicago and was given an alternate passage through London to Paris. The security was so tight and slow in London that he missed the flight to Paris which would have gotten him there close to the time we arrived. He finally did get another flight to Paris and what a joy and relief it was to see him. We had a good time together at the evening meal (at 7:15 p.m.) which is called “Diner” (spelled that way) which is smaller and less formal, made up of, besides bread, cheeses and fruit, mostly leftovers from the mid-day meal. Unfortunately, Fr. Lubbers’ luggage was delayed for two days, but when we arrived back from our trip the next day it had been deposited in his room.
There is a marvelous coffee-making machine which is moved from the snack room to the dining room for breakfast. You can have very strong black coffee, cappuccino, coffee and hot milk, hot milk or hot water. Since they drink the coffee, especially at breakfast, from good-sized bowls you can mix several varieties.
We were all ready for bed after we had concelebrated a Mass for the five of us in the community chapel. I slept especially well and longer that I ever remember sleeping before and felt great. Not everyone had the same experience, but even so our second day, Saturday, was marvelous. Our driver, drove us to the site of the famous Chartres Cathedral. Fr. Lubbers and I had seen it before, but this time it was really special. Instead of driving on the highways, we went through the countryside. (The roads, incidentally, were excellent). The winter wheat had just begun to come up and the fields were green and beautiful. In the U.S. farmers seem to cluster in little villages, but in Europe and here in France, each farmhouse is surrounded by fields.
As we neared the ancient Cathedral, it rose up on the horizon out of the mist, far, far taller than anything else, like a spiritual kingdom of Oz. I had wondered if the English speaking guide might still be there. Some years ago, when I was president of Rockhurst, it was his custom to tour the United States talking about the famous Chartes stained- glass windows. He illustrated his talk with excellent slides of those windows. We had invited him to give his talk and slide show as one of our Visiting Scholar Lectures. We always had a dinner beforehand for the visiting scholar and some special friends of Rockhurst. After the dinner he and I headed for the Little Theatre for his presentation. To our amazement, not only was the theatre packed, including every possible standing space, but the crowd extended out of the theatre doors into the lobby and the surrounding corridors. It was such an outstanding success, that we invited him back the following year in a larger space which was also filled. He came a third time, again to a large audience.
Consequently, I was delighted to see his name on the sign announcing his presentation which was about to begin. Of course, I introduced myself and he remembered well his visit to Rockhurst even though he had been to many other U.S. campuses. His talk from different points in the Cathedral was fascinating and contained many historical references and a beautiful explanation of a number of the windows and statues.
To top off the day, Fr. Lubbers inquired about a nearby restaurant he had once visited. We were told that this was closed, but that there was an excellent restaurant practically across the street from that one. We had a delicious steak dinner there in a quaint and elegant French setting. It was probably our best meal in France (but not inexpensive!). We stopped after a leisurely drive back before we arrived at rue de Grenelle for a light meal and then had Mass together.
On Sunday, we were joined by Henri’s wife, Isabel, and their two sons, Etienne, 12 and Eric, 10. We went first to an ethnic fundraising celebration sponsored by Rotary International in an exhibition building near the Hippodrome, a racetrack. There, an enormous number of winemakers were displaying and selling their wares in different booths, plus sellers of all kinds of food stuffs, hams, spices, pastries, cheeses, just about any edible you could think of. We had a light meal there. (Some had raw oysters on the half shell; I settled for a ham and cheese sandwich on delicious French bread.) Each of the five of us was presented with a souvenir bottle of wine to take back. As it happened, Fr. Pfab carried the whole package across the street. He was rewarded in the end with the five bottles for his community.
In the afternoon we went to the crypt of the Martyrdom of Saint-Denis, a small chapel partway up Montmartre, where Ignatius and his companions pronounced their vows in 1534. It is no little task to obtain the key since it is normally locked. (However, they do have a key, which we were able to borrow, at the Jesuit residence.) We hoped to say Mass and renew our vows there, but we were not able to find the light switches. Thanks be to God, while we were searching for the lights, an assistant caretaker showed up and supplied us with all we needed for our Mass. Just before Communion, we recited in unison the formula of the vows (which I had brought along). Fr. Lubbers realized later that he had left an important scarf/stole at Montmartre in the chapel where we renewed our vows. Fr. Whelan of the Maryland Province kindly saved us a trip back to pick it up the next day.
We finished the day with a visit to Sacre-Coeur on Montmartre. Our driver managed to get us very close to the Cathedral and an older, small church nearby. For the evening meal we again ate with Henri and his family. One of his boys took great delight in taking pictures with Lee’s digital camera and he had some good ones, but unfortunately in the course of the meal and the aftermath, the lad managed to delete all the pictures that had been taken.
Why it was, I am not sure, but I did not sleep well that night or the night before and besides that I developed a rather mild case of diarrhea. Consequently, I decided to take some time off and get some rest. I did not accompany the others to the Church of Sainte-Germaine Des Près., which is just a short walk from the Jesuit residence. By the time Henri picked us up, I was already feeling much better. That day we went to see a satellite operation that is doing something similar to SCOLA’S work by bringing television programs to various parts of Africa, especially Niger. We joined a prominent lawyer and his assistant for a splendid mid-day meal with the two representatives of this company, one an African, the other a Frenchman. Next we visited Notre Dame Cathedral which Lee and I had seen before, but which the others had not. That evening we went to see one of the managers of the Renault automaker. Tours of the plant which our guide, Henri, hoped to arrange are restricted to groups of 15 and they are reserved a year in advance. Anyway, we were entertained with snacks in a sort of party house for visiting guests of the Renault Company.
One interesting snack was at a Japanese Tea Garden. We sat on regular chairs with ordinary utensils, but feasted on delicious sweets and tea.
The weather our first couple of days in France was a bit cold and windy, but the sun was shining most of the time. The last few days it seemed to get colder. There was a slow, drizzly rain on and off and no more sun. On our last full day we had intended to visit the famous Louvre museum, but it is closed on Tuesdays. However, we visited the Eiffel Tower, but we went only to the second level; no one wanted to go to the top. Although it has now been surpassed by higher skyscrapers, when it was built, it was the tallest manmade structure in the world. It is certainly a monument to human genius and ingenuity. We also visited The Champ-Èlyèes and the Arc de Triomphe and saw the Pompidou Museum from the outside (also closed on Tuesdays).
We had a snack on the street where the Collège Sainte-Barb is located. This is where Ignatius, Xavier, and Faber lived when they attended the University of Paris. It is being thoroughly gutted and renovated. The coffee shop where we stopped was almost certainly there when the early Jesuits were at Sainte- Barb. Dinner this night was an elegant one with the two men from the Niger satellite operation and the president and a woman manager of a software company that works with the African television operation. It was an excellent (and expensive) meal, but much too long for those of us not accustomed to 3 1⁄2 hour affairs.
On the day of our departure we had breakfast, said Mass, thanked Father Superior and were driven to the airport by Henri. We wanted to arrive early and we did, in time to get quickly through security after profusely thanking Henri, and with plenty of time for a leisurely snack. The 767 got away right on time. It was more crowded than the plane to Paris, but not really packed. The meal was pretty good, as airplane meals go, and the 8 1⁄2 hour ride through seven time zones was quite smooth. In Chicago, of course, we went through immigration and customs checks (hardly any questions) and then parted for our separate ways to Milwaukee, Detroit and Omaha, and for me back to St. Louis. My plane was late leaving Chicago by a couple of hours, but after a wait for my bag, I caught the Metrolink and used the direct line to SLU Security at the Grand Avenue station and was picked up to be taken directly to Jesuit Hall.
It was a wonderful few days in the footsteps of Ignatius and his first companions (but hardly with the simplicity and hardships they endured). We did feel his presence with us as we visited and traveled the very places where he began to form the first outlines of what would later become the Society of Jesus. We did much reminiscing about our 60 years in our Society and the many ways in which God has blessed us. It has indeed been a wonderful life. Thanks be to God!