May 10, 2017

Faith and Beauty

Back from a wonderful experience in France with our group of pilgrims.  These trips can be exhausting due to the time change, airport hassle, many personal details about credit cards, new forms of money, passport requirements, itinerary, varied hotels, unfamiliar beds, European bathrooms, food and of course the language that can provide varying degrees of frustration.

HOWEVER, and I put those words in large letters for a reason, it’s all worth it.  Long time ago I remember hearing that travel is better than the classroom. While I would never agree that we should just close our schools and send everyone on a round the world vacation, personal experience is a powerful way to reinforce what we read in text books, hear during a lecture, see on-line, or hear stories from others about places we’ve never been.  Our recent pilgrimage to France was among those great experiences. 

The sights and sounds leave a forever impression. For example, yes, there really is an Eiffel Tower and a magnificent grand Cathedral in Chartres with stunning irreplaceable stained glass.  There really is a one of a kind painting called the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci.  The food is delightful in France if you absolutely love cheese, breads, pastries and perfect wine! What’s not to like? 

But all that aside, we journeyed on a pilgrimage as well with daily Mass in some stunning places of great religious significance.  We studied the various Saints who lived and served the Lord in ways that are a constant inspiration for our personal Christian faith and viewed paintings, architecture, and music that have made the French rightly proud of their love for beauty. 

Among our most well-known and significant Saints we traveled to Lourdes where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858 and called for peace, procession and prayer.  A world shrine where more than 5 million people visit every year and you can celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation to priests who visit from around the world to give some time to the pilgrims. I may do so myself. 

St. Therese of Liseux, likely as well known and popular as St. Francis of Assisi, was included in our journey. In the beautiful French town of Liseux we visited her home and the Convent where she spent 9 years before her death at the early age of 24.  From her autobiography, her “Story of a Soul” God has chosen to bring her spirituality front and center for many.  There is an enormous Basilica built to her honor where her relics are entombed.  I could not help but think that if she saw that Church today she would be incredibly embarrassed that such a fuss has been made over her.  Yet it is to the glory of God. 

The Beaches of Normandy and the Military Cemetery mark the famed D-Day invasion which changed the course of World War II.  Here thousands of young soldiers are buried who died on June 6, 1944 and many others who died before and after that time.  To them the world owes everything. 

In the sweet village of Ars we visited the shrine of the Patron of parish priests, the legendary St. John Vianney.  Before his incorrupt body, I was privileged to celebrate Mass with our group of 38. 

On and on but those are some of the highlights.  We were blessed as we had no problems, nothing to fear and French are moving forward with their lives. While we live in tense times for certain we need our Catholic faith now more and more.  France in particular needs our prayers.  They are good people but the gospel of the secular, non-religious movement has taken a strong hold.  Considering the history of that Country and Europe in general I can understand but let’s pray this is a time of transition and not the end of Christianity by any means. 

A pilgrimage is meant to be a faith centered journey.  Our lives are the same of course.  Not always with straight lines but hopefully always with the same focus – on Christ Jesus in the unity of his Church. 

So much more I could say but the pictures I’ve included may help to tell more.  Look up the Saints I’ve mentioned if you’re not familiar with them. Also, add to that list:  St.Vincent de Paul, Catherine Laboure, Margaret Mary Alacoque and the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Peace to all and more later to come  + 

A sample of our experience: