It’s Saturday night and we are both bushed, not because of the day — which was uplifting and hilarious at once — but because the last hour of our journey back to Lyon in our hired car was probably the most stressful we have spent together. We have a learnt a salutary lesson: it is easier to put a hired car through the exit to the carpark than it is to rely on a GPS navigator to find its way through the entrance. Didn’t the good Lord something similar?

Our journey into the hills was across a smoggy plain: Lyon had an inversion and things were a bit vague, but the roads were good and fast. Once off the freeways, and ascending rapidly, we were in a world of frosted trees and snowy fields. The valleys became gorges and we were in the world of
Jean Claude Colin and Jean-Marie Chavoin.

Our day with Sister Teri was a hoot from start to finish, but one with a strong spiritual focus. She had with her a lovely German Marist priest whose name we have forgotten but who was great fun with a wicked sense pf humour who lived with Tony Corcoran – my Old Testament lecturer – in Rome.

Teri’s message was taught through the topography and practice of this mountain village to which Colin was sent as priest. The sheer physical toughness of the life of these early Marists, ministering to a number of parishes separated by vertiginous paths, is part of the stubborn side of the charism. The other side is the presence to the moment: that incarnational devotion to Mary that was revealed so beautifully in one incident of the day.

Teri needed the keys to the church and presbytery and the usual custodian was not at home, so she went to another house, somewhat unwillingly as the occupant was having a battle with breast cancer. She was greeted with open arms: the lady’s father-in-law had died the day before and was laid out in the old fashion, at home. The daughter-in-law had not been able to touch him, but Teri’s brief visit, prayers and – of all things – photograph, provided that moment, that moment of presence.

Teri herself remarked that this was something that happened to her a lot; and, without pushing things too much, I know what she means. It is part of the strength of the Marists and I think it comes from a reflection on Mary’s maternity: it is not a job description, for being a mother is not a task but a relationship, a state of being present to someone. We lit candles for the lady, for each other and for the Marist family before the Mary that had comforted and encouraged Colin and Chavoin

How to also to describe the monument to the Maquisard, the vineyards on eastern slopes on 45 degree slopes, the wine-tasting, the age and strength of the village buildings, the effect of ice and frost and water? Our meal was perfect in simplicity and had its own amusement as Teri explained to local trail-bike riders that not only were we pilgrims to the town because of Colin and Chavoin, but that Australia had a Cerdon College and Paula was from it! When she produced her jersey, the proprietress wanted to buy it! Saucisson, pain et fromage made a wonderful and filling lunch.

Teri escorted us to the medieval city of Perouge and we thought she would say farewell, but no! She charged around this amazing living relic and led us into fascinating little shops and the extraordinary fortified church, with its polychrome statues and shrines to Mary Magdelene. Our final farewells were fond: what a wonderful lady and a perfect apostolic guide to Marist heartland.

As we recover back in Lyon, we are slowly getting our perspective back.
We need a drink, even of not a full meal, and a view of floodlit Fourviere. I’m sorry about the meal because last night’s was a cracker (saucice and salad followed by salt pork and lentils, with soft cheese and cream for desert). No journey is simple, however: we are actually quite good survivors.

I wish I could upload the photos from the SLR, and Paula’s videos are vivid. This must suffice, and more stories when we get home.