This year the Centre offered our first pilgrimage, in what we hope will become a long-standing tradition. After weeks of planning and preparation, myself, Iona and Father Teo, and fourteen pilgrims were ready to make the long journey to visit blessed Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s tomb in Saint Xavier’s Church and Mission, Kahnawake.
The morning of departure, Father Teo gathered us all together in the main room and we blessed each other with holy oils from Jerusalem. Each of us turned to our fellow pilgrims and made the sign of the cross on our palms and foreheads, praying for a safe journey and successful pilgrimage. Iona and I were then brought into the middle of the room and with hands raised given a blessing from the group to lead them for the next five days.
Waking up in sunny Montreal the first day well rested, we made our way to the world’s largest Saint Joseph’s shrine. St. Joseph’s Oratory is perched on Mount Royal overlooking the city. We walked through this magnificent place where beloved Saint Brother Andre once provided care for those in need. Using blessed lamp oil from beneath a statue of Saint Joseph, Brother Andre healed many people, and continues to inspire and heal today. As we walked through the Votive Chapel we could feel the heat generated by ten thousand candles, each one a prayer intention given for St. Joseph to intercede on their behalf. In the middle of the chapel lies Brother Andre himself, entombed in black marble along with a bronze bust that has been felt by believers so much that its facial features are beginning to change color. After seeing the colossal Basilica we celebrated Mass in the Crypt Church that was full pilgrims from far and wide who were on similar journeys.
The next day we found ourselves on the bus singing joyful Saint Kateri hymns on our way to Kahnawake. We arrived at Saint Xavier’s Mission a 17th century French architecture brick building with bright frescos covering the ceiling. It was there we discovered Saint Kateri’s tomb in a brilliant white marble. After a walk through the museum to see the many relics and historical artifacts, we celebrated Mass, and then took some time to pray and appreciate what Saint Kateri and her humble life story meant for us on our journey.
The final day in Montreal we visited Queen Mary of the World Cathedral, which was modeled after the Sistine Chapel in Rome. A company of statues of Saints greeted us from a top the Cathedral, and inside along the pillars of the great structure. We later made our way down the street to Saint Patrick’s Basilica to celebrate Mass, while appreciating the many portraits and fine carpentry done on each pew. Our last event took place at the famed Notre Dame Basilica. It was here the Basilica’s history was explained by the commentary of the deceased architect, with great white curtains projected on with images of the past. As the story progressed, the curtains were slowly removed to reveal the magnificence of the Basilica with the help of different colored lights. As you looked up, the ceiling was covered in stars. The altar had many levels of statue’s depicting themes from the Old and New Testament, the Crucifixion being the centre of the altarpiece. The intricate designs and contrast of light and dark gave this gothic style interior the ability to earn gasps and awe’s from us onlookers. You cannot help but leave the Basilica with a sense of reverence for the beauty of this great tradition.
It was through our open faith sharing, mealtime conversations, jokes and constant laughter that all seventeen of us on this journey grew closer in a common faith. Saint Brother Andre, and Saint Kateri became important inspirations of this great journey, helping to guide and focus us all on our different faith quests, while bringing us together in faith, and prayer.
Thank you to all my fellow pilgrims who came and supported each other, and to the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre for giving us this opportunity. You all made this a meaningful and memorable trip that has strengthened my own faith, and I hope it can continue to strengthen others for years to come.