Wednesday, April 25, 2012

André Vingt-Trois

The archbishop of Paris is so named. Michelle was baptized in Notre Dame Cathedral on Easter Eve last, a particularly meaningful event for Ghulfdom (link). I discovered the odd name of the cardinal in connection with that. The name, which literally means Twenty-Three, was shown as a last name, not as a number, but I still wondered. It turns out that the number is a name. The cardinal was the child of Armand and Paulette Vingt-Trois; he was born in 1942. The family believes that their distant ancestor had been abandoned as a child or baby and found on the 23rd of the month. Today Michelle tells of another view current in Paris, even more charming. It is that the archbishop was himself an orphan, occupied Bed 23 in the orphanage, and thus acquired his name… To be sure, the archbishop has wisdom and charisma to spare. If you possess the French, you can persuade yourself of that in this YouTube video of an interview on the French BFMTV channel (link). The early part of the interview—before it (inevitably) focuses on politics—is worth hearing.

Multiple and for us meaningful coincidences played a part in Michelle’s becoming a Catholic, among these the fact of baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral. I was under the false impression that all new converts were baptized there. Not so. Only eight of a total of 350 this year had that honor. Every year another parish has that distinction, and this year it happened to be the one where Michelle belongs, Notre Dame de la Croix de Ménilmontant. It turns out also that the archbishop’s career and Michelle’s life in France have certain parallels. The archbishop earlier served as the archbishop of Tours—the city where Michelle lived her earlier years in France and went to school, under the protection of St. Martin of Tours. How we intersect with St. Martin is told on this blog here.

The image of the archbishop is from Le Figaro (link); I hope they don’t mind my use of it here…


  1. Ah, I didn't look it up myself actually. I just repeated what a good catholic friend of mine told me. The version that an ancestor had been abandoned is far more likely, of course. First of all, André knows whether or not he has parents, right? Secondly, the bed in the orphanage thing sounds way more 19th century than 20th. Back then - and I have actually seen these - small revolving doors exsisted to the side of the main door of churches so that women could abandon their babies in greater comfort: anonymity being preserved and babies being better protected from the cold - and the wolves! - than if they were left directly outside on the steps of the church! Today, babies who are abandoned at birth - and we prefer to use the notion "given over to the State for protection" - receive three first names from their mothers and the third is used as a family name if the baby is not adopted. That piece of information, too, might not be exactly correct...

    Thanks for this new post concerning my baptism! It was a lovely moment!

  2. This again reminds me of poor Quasimodo and the myth surrounding his ancestry and history. But at least he has an important Sunday named after him even by the Catholic Church, be it ever so well disguised in different re-telling.


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