Les Bonnes Soeurs
Each week for over a year I have parked near a Convent for my French class in Montauban.
It’s not just Catholic, but Dominican, and it seems to me absolutely appalling for any Dominicans to express themselves in our area, where they were founded, because of the reason they were founded: To root out and exterminate the native Cathars, a people whom today almost any modern moral person would applaud as righteous and correct and far, far superior to any Catholic Inquisitor who condemned them to the stake.
The Dominicans defended their One True Faith by any means necessary against the kind Cathars, and they’ve arguably done worse to many other groups since, in the Old World and New.
So passing this building I’ve shaken my head in disbelief that people could perpetuate such a stained religion, and I have figuratively spat and cursed at the audacity. I’ve thought many negative, uncharitable and judgmental thoughts while just walking by.
And then one day last winter as I stomped resentfully past, I noticed for the first time the small marble plaque beside the courtyard gate.
I skimmed through the words once, and then had to stop in my tracks, back up, and read it again a second time, with more attention.
It said that the Dominican Sisters of Montauban “in the dark days of the German Occupation, hid Jewish families in this Convent.”
Now who would have been the last to hide Jews 700 years earlier? What horrors have Dominic and his minions not unleashed on this world? What atrocities have they not committed against Jews and everyone else?
But in the time of the Nazi Occupation, these Bonnes Soeurs apparently saw what was happening around them, and knew in their hearts that their beliefs could not be part of it. Even though they themselves were spared the worst, they could not condone the invading power.
They then took brave, selfless, daring action: They hid the first to be targeted.
In the process, they risked not only themselves but the future of their institution in order to save a former enemy, to conspire against a greater foe.
Ever since then when I’ve walked past the Convent on the way to class I look down at my feet and whisper a thank-you to the Sisters for what they did for others. All my malice toward them is turned to admiration.
I waited to take these photos until the Solstice this year. It is not a Catholic holiday, but belongs to all of us equally, in a more cosmic sense. I like to think that the Sisters heard that higher calling, even beyond their creed and personal safety.
In the middle of the political turbulence of our own day, with terrorism and extremism and turncoats and manifestos making foes out of friends and even reluctant friends out of former enemies, I like to think that we will be able to ally ourselves in a greater reconciliation also against the darkness that threatens to engulf us all.
Strange bedfellows can surprise you. Sometimes they are the only ones you can trust.