Hermann Cohen recounts his conversion
It happened in the month of May last year in 1847. Mary’s month was celebrated with great pomp at the church of St. Valère. Various choirs were playing music and singing, which drew people in. The Prince of Moscow, who organized the music, was known to me; and he asked me if I would stand in for him and direct the choirs. I agreed and went to take my place purely from my interest in music and a desire to do the joy well. During the ceremony, nothing affected me much; but at the moment of Benediction, though I was not kneeling like the congregation, I felt something deep within me as if I had found myself. It was like the prodigal son facing himself. I was automatically bowing my head. When I returned the following Friday, the same thing happened; and I thought of becoming a Catholic. A few days later, I was passing the same church of St. Valère while the bell was ringing for Mass. I went in and attended Mass with devotion and stayed on for several more Masses, not understanding what was holding me there. Even when I came home that evening, I was drawn to return. Again the church bell was ringing and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for veneration. As soon as I saw it, I felt drawn to the altar rail and knelt down. I bowed my head at the moment of Benediction, and afterwards I felt a new peace in my heart. I came home and went to bed and felt the same thing in my dreams. From then on, I was anxious to attend Mass often, which I did at St. Valère and always with an inner joy.
Servant of God Augustine-Mary of the Blessed Sacrament
Letter to Chevalier Charles Asnarez (excerpt)
Biographer Timothy Tierney, O.C.D. shares the following notes concerning this testimony:
The Church of St. Valère was located on the Rue de Bourgogne, was the site of the “Forty Hours” devotion to the Blessed Sacrament pioneered by Mademoiselle Maurois. The church has since been demolished. The basilica of Sainte-Clotilde now stands on the site.
Tierney identifies the “Prince of Moscow” as Joseph Napoleon Ney. Ney was the son of Michel Ney, one of Napoleon’s generals, who fought at Waterloo but was executed by the new regime. Tierney also notes: “It is interesting that Cohen’s friend, Joseph Ney, was president of the Jockey Club from 1836-1849; this may be where Cohen got to know him. The Jockey Club was Anglo-French, frequented by Paris celebrities. ‘Jockey’ could be of Gaelic derivation—eachaidhe means jockey and is pronounced similarly.
Tierney, T 2017, A Life of Hermann Cohen: From Franz Liszt to John of the Cross, Balboa Press, Bloomington, IN
Featured image: On 28 October 2017, the Blessed Sacrament was enthroned above the High Altar in St Dominic’s church in north London, a visible sign of Christ reigning as our King. Photo by Father Lawrence Lew, O.P. (Some rights reserved).