Pilgrimage to the Heart of Jesus
I made it to Belgium! After that last post, I arrived in Belgium just this past Thursday. I’ve still got some major jet lag so the fact that the first few days of my arrival were quiet and unspectacular were much appreciated. The one thing that I did get to do was head out on Saturday evening with my mentor from Quebec City, Père Frédéric into the city to eat a nice spaghetti dinner and watch the film “Now You See Me” together in the nearby cineplex of Jambes. It’s different watching an American film in French… and this film in particular had a ton of dialogue all dubbed in French! It’s about a gang of 4 magicians who pull of these magnificent sets of heists all in the name of joining up with a mysterious community known as “The Eye.” It’s a great little film with smart dialogue (at least, that which I could follow and understand) and that brings you into so many different plot twists and turns before a surprising and satisfying end, which I won’t spoil for you. One of the main themes of the movie though, that of mystery, is one I enjoyed a lot because there’s such a great lack of mystery and awe in the world as it is today. In our internet sated, scientifically minded culture, I find that we’re always trying to explain everything away, leaving no more room for the sublime and mysterious… and yet mystery remains very much a part of who we are… Not only is the world still a very mysterious place but, in fact, we are and to some extent always will be a mystery to ourselves… and it takes some great films like The Lord of the Rings or Now You See Me to remind us of that. We all could use a little bit of magic in our daily lives – something that a life lived with God always brings without fail.
I mean, look at where I ended up because of him. Yesterday, we woke up a bit before 6 am on a road trip to the gorgeous city of Paray le Monial. If I have time later this week, I may try and bring you guys on a mini tour of this city and let you know a bit of its history. Suffice it to say that it’s an important Catholic pilgrimage site because on 1673, Jesus appeared to a sister of the nearby visitation convent in Paray revealing to her His Sacred Heart. That sister, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, with the help of her spiritual director, Saint Claude la Colombière then went on to promulgate the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is now one of the most important feasts in the Catholic Church today. I’ll try and explain more of that once I do get around to visiting some of the sites here so expect another blog post sometime soon (hopefully)!
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself! The road trip alone from Belgium through France has some stuff worth telling… because I managed to drive a bit of it. It was my first time on the European highways and I had a great little time with the other seminarians. We drove first by Luxembourg, a big stopover point for many Europeans primarily because it’s the cheapest place to fill up on gas around and because it’s so central to many other European countries.
Check this out: have you ever seen this much Nutella! 5 kg of it!!! Wow!
From Luxembourg, we drove through Northern France down towards Lyon, passing by some pretty amazing sites – Dijon, home of the mustard (and lots of other stuff I don’t know about), the abbey of Citeaux (one of the first abbeys of St. Bernard of Clairveaux) and Cluny (one of the most famous and biggest of Middle Age monasteries, sadly destroyed during the French Revolution). We didn’t get to see any of these places though… we just saw the turnoff points from the highway but even that was pretty cool for me. Paray le Monial itself is located not too far from the ancient city of Lyon… the city of Saint Ireneaus and St. Polycarp and the first city of Gaul to be converted to Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd century. It’s also not too far from Ars where the patron saint of parish priests, St. Jean Vianney, came from. We got to see him last year.
And it’s not too far from the little community of Taizé either where, for a week every summer, hundreds of young people of different Christian denominations meet up for some time of prayer and fellowship accompanied by some of the most beautiful chant you’ve ever heard. Here’s a little example from youtube of that:
Arriving in Paray le Monial, the first place I went to for my Holy Hour (1 hour of prayer and adoration) was the same Visitation convent where St. Margaret Mary had her apparitions of Jesus. That was awesome and it was capped off by the fact that in the middle of the Holy Hour, a priest actually came out and exposed Jesus on the altar for us… so I got to do a bit of Eucharistic adoration my first day back in Paray le Monial. After that, we had the privilege of accompanying the community of sisters for their Vespers (Evening prayer) which was interesting because it was just soooooo real. What I mean here is that we were there in the little chapel around many other people (mostly older ones) who sang along in the 3rd, 4th 5th or even 6th voice… Let’s just say it wasn’t Taizé and leave it at that eh? 🙂
Today began our seminarian retreat with the theme of “Loving the world that Jesus loved so much” There are about 60-ish seminarians here from all over Europe and I’m still working my way into meeting as many of them as I can. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you guys today! I’ll try and get at least one other post in before I leave Paray on Saturday but on the meantime, en union de prière! I’ll be praying for you guys! Please pray for me too, as well as the other guys here as we prepare spiritually for the new school year that awaits us! God bless!