A wonderful story from Remnant Newspaper about the church in Paris taken over by a Latin-Mass priest and his parishioners 40 yeas ago.
REMNANT EDITOR’S NOTE: Each year before the beginning of the Chartres Pilgrimage (which kicks off in Notre-Dame-de-Paris, just around the corner from Saint Nicholas), we make a point to lead our pilgrims to this beautiful old Church, which now has a much-venerated bust of the late, great Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at the rear. We pray that the spirit of the Archbishop and the saintly Monsignor Ducaud-Bourget will never be forgotten, and that the story of their courageous stand for the Old Faith will be told and retold to our children for many generations to come—at least until this Modernist nightmare is no more. MJM
A single tap of a priest’s knuckle upon the blackened mahogany arm of a choir chair signals the morning’s recitation of the Divine Office. The Roman-collared men gather in the sanctuary of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet de Paris and raise the breviaries they hold in their hands and flip through the thin pages until each finds the day’s prayers.
“Deus, in adjutórium meum inténde,” (O God, come to my assistance), the church’s pastor, seated on the Gospel side of the altar, chants in a rich voice.
From the Epistle side, four priests respond, “Dómine, ad adjuvándum me festína,” (O Lord, make haste to help me). Their prayers rise. In the nave, a dozen or so parishioners — some kneeling, others sitting — assist with their own prayers, in silence.
For the next fifteen minutes, the men, wearing ankle-length, death-black cassocks, appeal to God. They stand. They bow at the waist. They bow their heads. They cross themselves in pious affirmations, as the first rays from the morning’s sun seeps through the stained-glass depiction of the Crucifixion, two stories overhead.
Although Catholic churches held rites like these for centuries, Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet is no ordinary church.
Freed from the diocesan bishop’s strangulating jurisdiction of the post-Second Vatican Council’s “new-and-improved” Roman Catholic Church, Saint Nicolas, located at 23 rue des Bernardins, is one of a few churches in the secular Paris that regularly and exclusively offers the traditional Latin-rite Mass.
It all began 40 years ago, in 1977.
In Paris at that time, there was one old priest who clung to the Tridentine Mass of Pope Saint Pius V (1504-72), codified on July 14, 1570, following the Council of Trent (1545-63). The old religious Frenchman refused to go along with the progressives, the priests who experimented with innovations tossed into the Novus Ordo Missae (the New Order of the Mass).
That man was Monsignor François Ducaud-Bourget (1897-1984), ordained in 1934. A bit on the short side, he stood slightly hunched over, with a sharp nose that protruded from the center of his small face flanked by long tufts of white hair covering his ears.
At times he pointed his finger – crooked with rheumatoid arthritis – through the air to emphasize certain points in his sermons, always delivered with traditional instruction on morals and doctrine. He never went the way of the post-Vatican II folksy style of the self-reflective, feel-good homily commonly punctuated with jokes to keep the parishioners happy — and awake. He wouldn’t degrade himself, or his office, in that way.
Even though Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) had signed the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum on April 3, 1969, thereby handing the Church a reformed Missal, Monsignor Ducaud-Bourget disdained the man-centered modernizations. He continued with his back to parishioners, to face the altar and to pray the ancient rite.
As those before him, he began Mass with Psalm 42, a preparation for the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary, and ended with the emotionally inspiring Last Gospel, even though both had been ordered out of the Mass by the progressives.
Best described as a priest forced out of the diocese, in the ’70s Monsignor Ducaud-Bourget rented meeting places where he could offer the Latin Mass for those attached to the tradition. Regularly, he paid for a room on Sundays in the La Salle Wagram, a banquet hall near the Arc de Triomphe.
One Sunday, February 27, 1977, he rented a room in Maubert Mutalité Lecture Hall, a building very near Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. The monsignor had a plan.
Saint Nicolas suffered greatly from the chronic Novus Ordo syndrome: spiritual neglect. From 1968 to 1977, diocesan priests from the parish church, Saint Severin, located a few blocks away, only opened the doors of Saint Nicolas for a single new Mass once a week.
As usual, only a handful of parishioners bothered to show up for the Mass, which was interrupted when more than 1,000 parishioners, who met at Mutalité that Sunday, quietly filled the seats. And then the old priest entered with a procession, hoping to inject some supernatural powers of Jesus, Mary and Joseph back into the church, thereby inoculating it against the fatalistic forces of humanistic relativism. He had no idea how successful he would be.
His intention was to say the one Mass on Sunday, followed by prayer during the day and then leave. But there were so many faithful, it was decided that they would stay one more day, then one more day, then one more day, then one more day. Eventually, they decided to stay, to remain forever.