FRANCE — Forty-eight pilgrims traveled to France on a Year of Faith Marian Pilgrimage Oct. 8 – 19. The trip originated in Charlotte, NC and took the pilgrims to Paris, Lisieux, Mont-Sainte-Michel, Nevers, Paray-Le-Monial, Ars, Lyon, Toulouse, Orleans and Lourdes.
Here are some comments from Father Timothy Reid, spiritual director for the pilgrimage, and several others who made the trans-Atlantic journey in faith.
"Traveling on pilgrimage through France was a grace-filled experience for all of us. Visiting the tombs of so many saints, especially incorruptible saints like St. Bernadette, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. John Vianney, and visiting so many holy sites dedicated to our Blessed Mother was truly a gift and a privilege that has deepened my faith in God's almighty power and has strengthened my love and devotion for Him, His Immaculate Mother, and our brothers and sisters the saints. My greatest joy was seeing the beautiful effect our pilgrimage had on my fellow pilgrims. I have no doubt that all of us received many special graces that I hope we will share with our loved ones here in Charlotte."
– Father Timothy Reid
"On this pilgrimage my Catholic world expanded. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of the art and architecture inspired by man's love and devotion to our Lord and his mother throughout the ages. Being able to celebrate Mass in these sacred spaces gave me a powerful sense of connection to those who have gone before me. I am a member of a family that transcends time and space. I also gained a greater appreciation for the saints and how they desire to help us on our journey through prayer and example. I look forward to growing in friendship with many whom we encountered on this journey. Thanks be to our Lady for the shower of graces received!"
– Susan Staub
"Mount- St-Michel was pure magic. We traveled across the beautiful peacefully coastal plain and suddenly the isolated island with the ancient abbey appeared in the distance. I truly felt thrown back in time. Many had stayed in our hotel including King Leopold of Belgium 100 years ago. Listening to vespers in the abbey atop the many steps was transcendent. Jordan and I climbed all over the walls.
For pure beauty of Gothic architecture Saint Chappelle and Chartre are in a tie. They are both so uplifting. These inspiring structures were built over centuries by simple faithful people many centuries ago. Their windows told the Bible stories to the populations who were illiterate, but spiritually rich.
The strongest personal spiritual moment was to recite to St. Thomas Aquinas prayers before and after mass while on my knees before his mortal remains in the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse.
Lourdes is a place where our lady through her visit to Saint Bernadette has had such a huge impact on the world. The baths were spiritually cleansing. Seeing pilgrims from the world over who had come for inspiration and healing was amazing. This town is nestled in the beautiful Pyrenees with snow capped peaks in the distance.
I include the viewing of Saint Bernadette's incorruptible body as part of the Lourdes experience."
– Ed Hartle, MD
"Nancy and I feel truly blessed to have joined Father Reid and these marvelous pilgrims on another journey that helped us deepen our faith and gain greater appreciation for our Church. We learned so much and gained such appreciation for the challenges and struggles of the early church. The revolution and impact on the church left us a new appreciation for the commitment we must have as it is our role to spread His word in our confused world."
– Tom McGahey
"Our purpose in this pilgrimage was of enriching our faith, our marriage and deep our love for Our Lady.. Our Lady, who brought us together as husband and wife almost 25 years ago. This was our journey to start our new life as empty nesters, a new phase of our marriage, fortified by the graces received, always giving thanks to Our Lord through and with Mary. The time we spent together as a couple in this spectacular pilgrimage strengthened our marriage bond, healed our little frictions and increased our capacity to love. We are certain that all the graces received have been extended to our children and those we prayed for as well.
In a special note, we want to thank Father Reid for his great zeal and desire to save souls, to lead his flock to a better understanding of themselves and God. In this desire, united with the Blessed Mother, Father Reid is for us a constant reminder of what this life is all about - a daily battle to get in Heaven, but also a joyful one. He confirms Mary's call to us - Go to Mary and she will lead you to the joy of the eternal life. Thank you all the pilgrims for bringing gladness to our days in France. To our new friends - we hope to see you all soon. Let's keep up with the graces received."
– Luiz and Veronica Cortes
"Nancy and I are so thankful Our Lord for all the graces and new-found friendships we have gained during this magnificent pilgrimage."
– Rick Vanderkaay
Come along with us on this virtual pilgrimage to France as we journey "to Jesus through Mary."
See more photos, learn about the people and places of the Church in France and the devotions they inspired and see the journey through the pilgrims' eyes: http://triptofrance.tumblr.com/