Last Sunday's live broadcast of Mass on French Television (France 2), in a programme entitled Le Jour du Seigneur, featured a celebration of Mass held at the parish of St Elizabeth of Hungary, in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. The Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Guy Thomazeau, who was until 2011 the Archbishop of Montpellier, and who, much earlier in his priestly life, was the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Paris and Parish Priest of S Pierre de Chaillot (Paris 16th arrondissement), being the parish in which I live during the week, and where I hope to attend Mass tomorrow evening.
St Elizabeth's is an extremely beautiful church, but is slightly unusual, in that it is both a parish church and also the Conventual Church (in France) of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta (as well as being the centre of the Catholic Mission to the Chinese of Paris).
If you watch the footage, which at the time of writing you can do by clicking on the link below, you will see that a large number of Maltese Knights and Dames are present, and that one of the Knights, Charles de Boissezon, is interviewed about the Order and about reconciling his being a member of the Order with working in finance. (Apologies to those of you who don't have French.) Liturgy in Paris is sometimes criticised for being at the forefront of 1960's tastes, but this is most definitely a very respectable and respectful offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, even including up-to-date features such as the so-called Benedictine Arrangement of a crucifix on the altar during a versus populum celebration (such as was seen during a visit to Holy Ghost, Balham).
Link to 19 February 2012 edition of Le Jour du Seigneur
The programme also includes a brief reportage on the history of the Order of Malta (in French). Please be aware that if looking at the link after Sunday 26 February 2012, you might find yourself directed to a different edition of the programme... so, hurry up!
Regular readers of this blog will know that the Knights of Malta have a strong presence at St James's, Spanish Place (see this blogpost for example) and have also shown great support to the Ordinariate, both the Marylebone Group in particular and the Ordinariate more widely. Photographic evidence of their support for the Marylebone Group can be seen in our profile picture near the top of the right hand side of this blog. Photographic evidence of their support for the Ordinariate can be found aplenty here and here.
The fact that some of the Knights of Malta known to us are also former members of the congregation at St Mary's Bourne St most probably helps, but without doubt we as the Ordinariate owe a debt of thanks to the Order of Malta.
As we approach Lent, when our thoughts turn, amongst other things, to whether we are doing what we can in terms of almsgiving, the French broadcast reminds of of the charitable works performed by the Order of Malta. You can read more about these here and here. While the visible presence and practical assistance of the Knights is much appreciated, including at public events such as the annual Rosary Crusade of Reparation, this is only a part of their role: their active charitable works in the fields of medical work, humanitarian activities and emergency relief are most definitely no less vital. The Paris métro has, for example, recently been covered in Ordre de Malte posters intended to bring the 59th Annual Leprosy Day to the attention of the public.
At a more individual level, each of us can put some thought into our charitable giving during Lent, in order to comply, to the extent we can according to our situation, with the encouragement to almsgiving given in the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.
No doubt good causes such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Malteser International are ready to accept any financial support we might wish to provide. Do have a look at the websites of both groups and at the good work that they do, both in the UK and around the world. As part of your Lenten programme this year, think about whether there is something you could do to help them to continue to assist those in need.