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of Saint Faith's Church, Great Crosby


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Great God, your love has called us here
as we, by love, for love were made.
Your living likeness still we bear,
though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed.
We come, with all our heart and mind,
your call to hear, your love to find.

We come with self-inflicted pains
of broken trust and chosen wrong;
half-free, half-bound by inner chains;
by social forces swept along,
by powers and systems close confined;
yet seeking hope for humankind.

Great God, in Christ you call our name
and then receive us as your own
not through some merit, right, or claim,
but by your gracious love alone.
We strain to glimpse your mercy seat
 and find you kneeling at our feet.

Then take the towel, and break the bread,
and humble us, and call us friends.
Suffer and serve till all are fed,
and show how grandly love intends
to work till all creation sings,
to fill all worlds, to crown all things.

Great God, in Christ you set us free,
your life to live, your joy to share.
Give your Spirit?s liberty
to turn from guilt and dull despair
and offer all that faith can do
while love is making all things new.

From the Ministry Team 

Dear friends,

Listen to God's words, words for those who want to change. In Jesus, God says to us: 'Come with me, your sins are forgiven. Don't be afraid.'

If these words seem familiar to you, it is because you probably sat through hours of rehearsal for the Advent 3 Eucharist and heard them said as candles were lit and moves practised!

They sum up the challenge which is put to us every Advent in the teaching of John the Baptist, and it is a challenge put to us at the celebration of Christmas each year ™ how serious are we about change? Change in ourselves, and change in our world?

Lord Salisbury once said to Queen Victoria 'Change, change - who wants change? Things are bad enough as they are!' (This was one of many memorable quotes‘from Fr Tim at the prayer weekend). Newman said 'to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often'.

Although we know that change is part of life it frightens us. What do we think happens when we come to the Eucharist? Are we wanting to put life on 'pause' for an hour and enjoy a moment of escapism? Are we wanting to be taken back in time, because everything was so perfect then, allegedly? Or are we wanting God to send us out into the unknown? The future?  Unless we can give some thought to these questions we will never ever make sense of our relationship with God.

The question 'who are we here for?' is one frequently posed to us as a Christian community. I recently read through minutes of PCC meetings going back some 20 years and it was sad. Sad, because nearly 95% of the things we talk about concern us in our own small world (church on a Sunday) and have very little to do with the community around us.  You can be fairly certain that discussions concerning what we do in the liturgy and how we do it can easily fill an evening meeting or a whole day meeting. Ask people to debate our involvement with young people in the community or whether we can continue to maintain a hall for the community and there is often a stony silence.  It's much easier for all of us to talk about the things that matter to us. If only we had the same passion in discussing the things that mattered to others! Perhaps that is true of the church in general, not just us? Perhaps if things were reversed and we spent 95% of PCC meetings talking and working for community issues and only 5% on ourselves then we wouldn't see so many churches closing year after year.

'God so loved' - The Church of England? St. Faith's? the pro-women priest lobby? The anti-women priest lobby? The gay activists? The homophobic community? Each and every group in the church can, and often does, claim their special relationship and allegiance to God! Read John 3:16 again. God so loved - the world! Everyone. All humanity! If that message doesn't penetrate deep into our hearts this Christmas then how can we ever believe that the Christian faith can help to mould a better world?

'Will you hide or decide to meet the light?' Words we have sung to accompany the lighting of the Advent Candles. They are words which sum up the dilemma were are in. Do we take on board the true message of Christmas? If we do then we all have to create a more charitable form of Christianity where we live together with diversity rather than make the church what I want it to be. Difficult one. 'Will you hide or decide to meet the light?' If we take those words seriously then we as a church will be wanting to 'look out' more than we 'look in'. Perhaps we think that hiding in the past is safe and easy. Meeting the light means letting God take control and being led into the unknown.

'There is no stopping place in this life, no, nor was there ever one for anyone, no matter how far along the way they've come. This then above all things: be ready for the gifts of God and always for new ones.' (Meister Eckhart).

So will our celebration of God-made-man make any difference to us and our community as we move into 2005? Time will tell.

With my love and prayers always,

Father Neil

Dates for the Diary

Saturday 1st January 2005
12noon: Solemn Mass with prayers for peace
followed by drinks in the Upper Room

Sunday 2nd January 2005
In S. Mary‘s Waterloo at 6pm
Followed by mulled wine and mince pies
(please note there will be no Compline
and Benediction in S. Faith‘s that day)

Thursday 6th January 2005
10.30am Eucharist in S. Mary‘s (said)
Preacher: Fr. David Woodhouse
 (former Archdeacon of Warrington)

Sunday 23rd January
11.00 am  Sung Eucharist
Preacher: The Reverend Jonathan Boardman,
Chaplain, All Saints Anglican Church, Rome,
followed by an 'Italian style' lunch and presentation for those interested in joining the pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi in 2006.

Wednesday 2nd February
8pm High Mass and Procession of Light
Preacher: The Venerable Bob Metcalfe, former Archdeacon of Liverpool

Friday 14th January 2005 at 6.30pm
with hymns, on the feast of the translation of her relics from Agen to Conques

THANKS… ....

...from Fr Neil to all those who organised the marvellous lunch for the senior citizens (to include for the first time the 'mature' members of S. Mary's congregation too), as well as the Children's Craft Day and Sunday School party. It is marvellous that given the huge volume of work many have coped with for the BBC programmes we haven‘t forgotten our regulars! That says something important about the quality of commitment which is found in the congregations of our two churches.

Living with the BBC
or The Advent of Christmas ...
Chris Price

St Faith's has played host to radio and television on several occasions in the past. But it is safe to say that the recent week of activity preparing for the two BBC TV services eclipsed all that had gone before in terms of the sheer magnitude of the event. By the time you read this, you will have seen for yourselves the end product: what follows, adapted from my daily bulletins posted with accompanying pictures on the church website, is intended to record something of what it felt like to be involved in the whole thing.

Long before the hectic final week, there had been a plethora of meetings, emails,  phone calls and discussions. There was a preliminary musical run-through to time the various items for the two services, featuring St Faith‘s church choir  and the nucleus of the 'Core Choir' - people with loud voices who were to be in the front pews for the recordings, looking bright and happy,  familiar with the services and ready to belt out the music and impress the cameras and viewers. Our 'Flower people' were kept busy creating sample decorations, hangings and arrangements (including Advent candles and all the trimmings for the font) and getting them approved, ready for decking out the church in the days before the recording sessions.

Although we wouldn't normally have our Christmas tree in place until  just before Christmas, the BBC had decreed that there must be two 20ft  trees up and decorated for the recordings, even though the services were to be recorded and broadcast in the season of Advent.

The theme of the four Advent services (two preceding ones were being recorded  in a church 'down south' in Chesham) was 'Down to Earth' (a neat juxtaposition of the themes of the Incarnation and environmental matters). James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, was to feature in all four services. We learnt that there would be five cameras in church, and miles of cables and lighting. Outside there would be lots of support vehicles, catering buses and portaloos!  Among the equipment in use would be, according to the BBC's technical specifications, 'two small quiet gennies', a 'Jimmy Jib', an 'Osprey', '5 stornos', a 'Lazy T/B',  and a 'Widescreen Digibeta....'

Admission was by ticket only, and those attending the recordings were asked to bring packed lunches, and  to dress brightly (but with different clothes for the two services!).

After all the preliminaries came the days leading up to the actual recordings. On the first Saturday most of the congregation for the two services, together with our hard-working and alwats excellent Church Choir, experienced three hours of rehearsal of the hymns and music to be used in the forthcoming televised services. BBC producer Claire Campbell-Smith ran the show, and Fr Neil, followed eventually by BBC man David Lawrence, who had been  held up for the first hour or so on the M6, rehearsed us. There were no cameras, lights or sound equipment, but we were subjected to constant exhortations to look bright, even startled, not to bury heads in booklets and, above all, to get the music, the emphases, the pauses and the volume exactly as required. The conductors cajoled and waved their arms, Ged Callacher relayed the tempo to organist Stephen Hargreaves up aloft, and the people in the pews did their best to sing up, sing in tune, sing in time and look joyful. It was all very professional and intensive, and proved a fascinating if demanding afternoon.

The early days of the big week saw the pace hotting up, with the church occupied by assorted riggers, lighting technicians, security people, flower arrangers, tree erectors, tea makers, sweepers-up, your website manager plus camera, and general dogsbodies for a good twelve hours.

Outside, two unwieldy Christmas trees were cut down to size, lugged in and put up. One went up quite easily, the other went up, tottered, came down and went up again, finally prevented from crashing down on the congregation by sandbags and rope lashings. By the evening, rigging and decorating was beginning to give way to rehearsing, as members of the production team arrived and the cameras were in position. We walked through the service to set up camera angles and mark positions, and two small candle-lighters were introduced to the font and to their candles in readiness for their role at Saturday's recording.

On Friday things moved up another gear. Much of the day was spent by the BBC folk in continuing the wiring and lighting rigging processes (with an awesome labyrinth of cables), and the St Faith's folk in setting up the crib under the nave altar (complete with a premature infant Jesus and three even more premature wise men, whose Advent advent was part of the BBC package!), stringing up baubles, touching up flower arrangements, making tea and coffee and sweeping up after people.

The evening session saw what the production team call a 'stagger thru' for part of the first service - walking through the moves, practising the candle lighting and readings and of course, for the church choir and the core choir, going through the music. Liverpool's  Love and Joy  Gospel Choir, backed by formidable drumming, arrived and were installed in the Lady Chapel, where they performed enthusiastic and deafening numbers at various points. We got as far as the Gospel procession  before being let home until tomorrow.

Saturday December 4th  was a twelve hour day for the BBC and not a few church people. All three choirs and the action and speech participants were on duty early, joined mid-morning by the general congregation. After practising various items separately, it was time for a filmed dress rehearsal, some sequences of which, we learned, might be used in the final version. So from then on we had to look up, look bright, sing well and, when others were performing, to watch them and listen to them with rapt attention!

The opening procession, the various parts of the liturgy, the choirs' musical numbers, (ranging from the 'pp' to the very 'ff') the responses and the hymns were all gone through, sometimes two or three times, until we were released for a break - lunchboxes and hot drinks in the church hall. Then we were back in for the actual recording. It all went smoothly, although with inevitable breaks and pauses, and some retakes at the end. Despite the presence of cameras, microphones and production staff scurrying hither and thither, the Sung Eucharist managed to feel something like a real service. We listened to Bishop James' sermon, all who wished to took communion, and the atmosphere was more prayerful and reverent than we might have predicted. After a while, you got used to the presence of cameras: not just the less obtrusive ones in the side aisles, and the big sit-on one which moved silently up and down the centre aisle, but the amazing long jointed rig, based in the Chapel of the Cross, which nosed up, across, over and down from a great height, looking, when it emerged behind one of the Christmas trees, for all the world like that vegetarian brontosaurus from 'Jurassic Park'!

Sunday was more of the same. The choirs were rehearsed from 8.25, with the congregation joining at 10.30, and then the process experienced on the previous day was repeated, with the final recording beginning after lunch. The second service is a sequence of readings, congregational carols and choir items. The extra ingredients were Rose Setten, BBC Radio 2 Choirgirl of the year, singing solos, and local Brookside actress Sue Jenkins providing two readings. The Bishop of Liverpool preached again, Fr Neil (creator of much of the 'script') welcomed, prayed and presided, and various parishioners young and old from our two churches lit candles, read and led prayers.

This service was more static, with no big gospel choir to manoeuvre and no eucharistic liturgical movements to incorporate. But there seemed to be even more long pauses,  retakes,  readjustments and mysterious silences, and the congregation, veterans though we were by now, were kept informed and entertained by the gentle and good-humoured encouragement of congregational conductor David Lawrence, attired now in a splendid waist-coat like a refugee from 'Four Weddings. and a Funeral'...

At last, at about 3.45 pm, and to resounding applause, we were told that it was all finished and we could go home, Not, however, before the heartfelt thanks of the BBC were offered, and, in a wave of euphoria and emotion, everyone applauded and appreciated the efforts of everyone else. Packing up began immediately, and was completed on Monday, with scaffolding coming down, vast quantities of gear dismantled, sweeping, tidying and polishing done, furnishings restored and St Faith's going back to its Advent mode. Only two premature Christmas trees remained as a bonus as the season of school carol services got under way and we waited, after the false dawn of the BBC's Christmas-in-Advent, for the real thing to come in the fullness of time. And, of course, on the next two Sundays, as we celebrated the Third and Fourth Sundays in Advent, the BBC would be broadcasting us to the watching world.

So was it all worth it? The build-up lasted months, the preparations were far more demanding and complex than we could have imagined, the disruption far greater. There were tensions and conflicts, and some difficult compromises between what we would have liked to show the viewers and what others decreed should be shown. But the whole week was an unforgettable and exciting experience. The (mostly) quiet and (always) friendly professionalism of the BBC, with their amazingly high production values, was matched throughout by the dedication and commitment of everyone in our churches, and, after all the weariness and grumbling is over, the opportunity to showcase our church and its distinctive and colourful worship and traditions, was something this writer, at least, is really glad to have been part of. We may complain that we live in a post-Christian age, where the church is marginalised and our voice and witness ignored. But the massive investment by our national broadcasting network in putting us on prime-time television for two weeks just before Christmas must surely persuade us otherwise. I write this, of course, without having seen the finished product...!

'There Was A Time'
An Advent Poem
(read by Sue Jenkins as part of the final BBC programme from St Faith's and printed here by popular request)

There was a time when there was no time,
When darkness reigned as king,
When a formless void was all that there was
in the nothingness of eternity,
When it was night.
But over the void and over the night Love watched.

There was a time when time began.
It began when Love spoke.
Time began for light and life, for splendour and grandeur.
Time began for seas and mountains, for flowers and birds.
Time began for the valleys to ring with the songs of life,
and for the wilderness to echo with the wailing of wind
and howling of animals.
And over the earth, Love watched.

There was a time when time began to be recorded.
A time when Love breathed and a new creature came to life.
A new creature so special
that it was in the image and likeness of Love
Of Love who is God.
And so man was born
and the dawn of a new day shone on the world.
And over man, Love watched.

But there came a time when the new day faded.
A time when man who was like God tried to be God.
A time when the creature challenged the creator.
A time when man preferred death to life and darkness to light.
And so the new day settled into twilight.
And over the darkness, Love watched.

There was a time of waiting in the darkness.
A time when man waited in the shadows,
And all creation groaned in sadness.
There was waiting for Love to speak again
for Love to breathe again.
And kings and nations and empires rose and faded in the shadows.
And Love waited and watched.

Finally, there came a time when Love spoke again.
A Word from eternity
a Word Spoken to a girl
who belonged to a people not known by the world
Spoken to a girl who belonged to a family not known by her people
To a girl named Mary.
And all creation waited in hushed silence for the girl's answer.
And Mary spoke her yes.
And Love watched over Mary.

And so there came a time when Love breathed again
When Love breathed new life into Mary's yes.
And a new day dawned for the World
A day when light returned to darkness,
when life returned to dispel death
And so a day came when Love became man - a mother bore a child.
And Love watched over Love - a Father watched His Son.

And, lastly, there came a time
when you and I became a part of time.
Now is the time that you and I wait.
Now we wait to celebrate what the world waited for.
And as we wait to celebrate what was at one time,
we become a part of that time
- a time when a new dawn and a new dream
and a new creation began for man.
And as a part of time, Love waits and Love watches over us.

Good and Evil
Fr Mark Waters
A Sermon Preached in St Faith's on the Last Sunday after Trinity

Diana and I saw one of the best pieces of theatre we‘ve ever seen last night, at the Playhouse here in Liverpool. It was a Greek tragedy, The Bacchae, by Euripides, brilliantly staged by Kneehigh Theatre company.

Not a play for the faint hearted though! It's a bloody orgy of violence and sex. But funny, and touching, and compassionate, and above all searching and challenging.

The play is about many things, but at the heart of it is what happens when human beings abandon themselves to their darkest desires. It shows us where we end up when we just follow our feelings, and allow them to lead us without thinking about the consequences. Above all, at its furthest extreme, the play addresses the hysteria of mob violence, and it explores cycles of revenge.

And could anything be more topical for us than that?  -  mob violence and cycles of revenge.

We don't need to go to the theatre to know about that sort of horror. We see it daily in our newspapers and on our TV screens. The frenzied killing by a mob of an American soldier in Iraq. The endless stream of suicide bombers in Palestine one day, followed by the murderous helicopter gunships of the Israelis the next. The unspeakable genocide in the Sudan. The merciless beheading of Ken Bigley. We don‘t need to go to the theatre to know about those things.

But we do need to go to the theatre - to a place of imagination - to understand something of how we are all implicated in those things, which is one of the things that the Bacchae is about. Listen to these words by the Director of the play, Emma Rice:

I‘ve always been 'good' So has my sister. So have my mother and her mother before her. But if we were snapped in half like human sticks of rock, would we have 'good' written through the spine of us? I know in my heart not - lying next to patience would be wild abandon, next to kindness defiance, next to understanding anger. Maybe not in equal measure -  but there they are, threatening to rise up, to bubble through.

And thank the gods, the fates, the luck of the draw that those darker parts can largely stay where they are! Oh, they privately taunt us and shake our bones from time to time, but we can tuck them away, keep them as our secret.

But what if we weren't so lucky? What if we were born somewhere else or at a different time? Do we know that we would never lose control? Never dance ‘til our feet bled, never march into the next village and kill our neighbour?

That's the scary bit! Not knowing. Not knowing what we might be capable of …if, if things weren't quite so in control in our lives. If we were faced with different pressures in a different situation.

The Pharisee in our gospel story this morning needs to get out more. Perhaps he needs to go to the theatre. His faith is so controlled. So much in his head. He's got the formulae, and he thinks he's arrived. He goes to synagogue and he mouths the prayers. And he puts a good few quid in the collection as well. But he's not attractive is he?

The tax collector is different. This is altogether a different approach to God. This man has been to a place of imagination. He knows what he is capable of. 'God be merciful to me, a sinner'. His faith is from the heart, not the head, from the guts even. A faith that has been wrestled out of ALL that he is, not just a bit of him.

We have to bring everything here to this altar. Not just the bits we pick out. Not just the nice bits, the conventional bits, the safe bits, the 'smiley' bits. God calls us to bring the lot, otherwise it's not worth coming.

It's only when we have some sort of understanding of the horror that each one of us could be capable of that we can begin to appreciate the goodness to which we may aspire. Only when we're aware of some of that darkness, that other side of us, that we can see what God calls us to.

Sunday by Sunday we stand at the beginning of the mass and recite the words of the general confession. I sometimes wonder at the easiness with which we say those words. Because they‘re not just about our trivial, banal, boring individual sins.

Those words are also about all of us standing together here before God to acknowledge the horror of the fact that our fingerprints are already on the triggers in Iraq, and on the handles of the knives in the Sudan, and on every car bomb which explodes in Palestine.

We live in a very different moral world to the ancient Greeks. Written 400 or so years before the birth of Christ, the Greek tragedies don't offer us much of a picture of redemption. They show us some of the horrors to which human beings can stoop, but they do that in a world of fickle gods who care nothing for justice. The Greek world is one in which fate is the only arbiter.

The Christian vision and hope is different. We have a saviour, who in his life not only showed us the depths of sin but also the heights of heaven and the miracles of love that can be wrought in a human life devoted to God. We need a faith like that of the tax collector: one lived in passionately from the heart, deep inside, viscerally from the guts. Aware of where our feelings and inclinations might lead us, but also deeply conscious of what love might do.

There were some haunting words at the end of The Bacchae last night. As the king‘s wife stands with a bloody, severed head in her hands, and slowly realises that it is her son‘s head that she and the other women of Thebes have ripped from his body, the chorus quietly begin to say the words: It might have been better if you hadn't been born. Said very quietly over and over. It might have been better if you hadn't been born.

They were scary words, because they challenge us to face the fact that perhaps our lives, to date, haven't been worth much. You and I won‘t be judged on the fact that we have managed not to be too naughty in our lives, but because, knowing better, that we did not exercise our imaginations enough to be really good.


In each man born there is a hidden power,
A will to face and fight the trials of life.
Courage he needs to turn towards the light,
To take slow steps until the goal is reached.

Happiness does not fall like rain from Heaven.
No magic wand can give us such delight.
In striving and in suffering we earn
A boon that does not come to coward souls,
For happiness is earned in life‘s hard school:
A prize for spirit forged like tempered steel.

Translated from the French of Guy Cornely by Jean Price

Pilgrims in Provence
Alex and Kathleen Zimak

We were fortunate to be able to begin our own pilgrimage to Conques a week before the main parish party by flying to Nice. We wanted  to visit some of the other interesting and often spectacular churches and cathedrals of Southern France as well as the towns and villages that have associations with Christian martyrs and saints.  In many of the churches there are relics of saints that have attracted generations of Christian pilgrims in the same way as the Church of Ste Foy in Conques. Like Conques, some of them lie on the various pilgrim routes from France to Santiago de Compostella in Spain where the remains of St James the Greater are revered by countless visitors yearly.

The Cote d'Azur has much more along its picturesque length to interest the visitor than just casinos and beaches. St Tropez, for instance, is popularly thought of as the haunt of the rich and famous, but it owes its name to St Tropes, an early Christian who was decapitated by the Emperor Nero: according to the legend his remains, together with a dog and a cockerel, were beached in a small boat in the harbour here.

We visited one of the most ancient religious foundations in Marseille near the old port: the Abbaye St-Victor was founded  in the fourth century AD, in honour of Saint Victor, the patron saint of sailors, millers and the town of Marseille. St Victor was a Roman officer stationed in Marseille who converted three prison guards to Christianity, an offence for which all four men were martyred. The crypt still contains fifth century Christian sarcophagi and a small chapel but the main abbey was destroyed by Saracens in the tenth century. It was rebuilt in the 11th and 12th centuries and like many of the churches of the time has the appearance of a fortress, reflecting the violent times in which it was built. In fact it became part of the town's fortifications.

Arles is famous for its amphitheatre and immortalised by the artist Vincent van Gogh whose favourite café is still open for business on the Place de Forum. The most fascinating visit however for us was the Cathedral of St Trophime, which like the abbey in Conques has a superb Romanesque tympanum above the entrance depicting the last Judgement. The cloister has wonderful Romanesque architecture and the crypt is partially from the third and fourth century.  St Trophime was sent by the Pope to found churches in Arles and the surroundings. Arles became one of the main pilgrimage points on  the  road  to  Santiago  de  Compostella. Not far away is the beautiful Camargue district, where flocks of flamingos, white  horses  and black bulls graze freely in amongst the lagoons and marshlands of the Rhone delta. We visited the extraordinary shrine of St Sarah in the crypt of the church in Stes Maries de la Mer. The legend is that the three women followers of Christ, Mary Salome, mother of James and John, Mary Magdalene and Mary Jacobe sister of the Virgin Mary, came here with their Egyptian servant Sarah in AD 40 to escape persecution in the Holy Land. St Sarah is the patron saint of gypsies and every year in October there is a huge gypsy celebration in the town when the statue of St Sarah is brought from the crypt and carried in procession to the water's edge, and the town explodes with dancing and music. The relics of the saint are also kept in the crypt which is completely filled with candles surrounding the black-faced statue of St Sarah, dressed in sumptuous garments.

Avignon is famous for the Palais des Papes which was the residence of the Popes in the fourteenth century. It is one of Europe's most monumental edifices: its wealth contrasts strongly with the life of simplicity led by the saints who are honoured elsewhere in the region: it attracted many distinguished visitors including Charles the Fourth of Bohemia who became the Holy Roman Emperor in the fourteenth century: he was present at a banquet with the Pope and copies of his statue from the Charles bridge in Prague and of his bust in St Vitus' Cathedral are in the geat hall.

Our final pilgrimage point before joining the St Faith‘s party at the airport was Toulouse. In this fine city the enormous Basilique of St Sernin is built on the site of the fourth century church which housed the remains of the early Christian martyr and first Bishop of Toulouse St Sernin. This saint  was tied to the tail of a bull by the Gallic pagans, and savagely dragged to his death when he refused to take part in a bull sacrifice. The fourteenth century church of Notre Dame du Taur was built on the spot where his martyrdom took place and contains an ancient fresco depicting the bull dragging its hapless victim.  In the church of Les Jacobins is buried the body of St Thomas Aquinas, the famous Christian theologian whose Summa Theologica was the standard theological text in many universities

Our week's tour through Provence and our final destination in Conques reminded us of the 'cloud of witnesses' that continue to be such examples of fortitude and courage to the Christian church.  The festival of All Saints had a for us a special significance this year as we remembered the martyrs of Southern France and the magnificent buildings that their lives and deaths inspired.