Within our FNE Explorer program our youth and their leaders are actively encouraged to explore in a constructive manner life, our faith, community, social differences, history and culture. Our Pilgrimage to Montreal in August of 2008 allowed us to do this and more.
From a technical perspective a Pilgrimage is defined as a journey to a holy place for a religious reason and this applied to our Pilgrimage as well. A person who makes this physical and spiritual journey is known as a pilgrim, and we all saw ourselves fitting this description as we came together to share a unique experience as the brothers that we are as members of our FNE Explorer movement.
Was our Pilgrimage a success? Absolutely as expressed by our youth participants and their leaders.
Monsignor Ambrose Sheehy, the pastor of our movement at Blessed Trinity parish, started our pilgrimage on the right foot by celebrating a private Mass for our boys, their leaders and family members in attendance. It was extra special when he blessed each of us with a class one relic from a saint for protection, safety and a spiritually rich experience. We would not be disappointed!
We stayed at the Legionaries of Christ Seminary located just outside of Cornwall for three nights having our breakfast, and dinner there each day. The food was great, our timber wolves and explorers worked together to set the table and later wash the dishes after every meal. A great team building and a sense of service rather than being served was learned here. We arrived right to the minute of our planned schedule 7.30 p.m. sharp.
After settling in for the evening, we prayed the rosary, reviewed the upcoming program, and listened to an exciting story before turning in for the night in the gym on cots. As we turned in for the evening not a single word was uttered as agreed till the next morning that would dawn sunny and warm!
By 07.00 a.m. it was rise and shine, showers, clean up of the sleeping area, into full uniform, and by 7.50a.m. we commenced our morning prayers and discussion as to the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We had a lively and insightful discussion. From there we headed off to enjoy a scrumptious breakfast followed by cleanup.
By 8.45 a.m. we participated in a talk from Father Paul Hubert as to the awesome power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us prepare for the sacrament of confession.
We eagerly lined up to kneel at the feet of the Lord Jesus in the confessional booth, to hear him speak to us through the Priest and to know that at the end of the sacrament of reconciliation that our sins would be forgiven, and that we could truly begin anew, thank you Jesus.
William was quoted as saying that confession felt really good, to hold nothing back, to tell Jesus everything, to know that Jesus loves us, to feel free and good once the words of forgiveness are spoken, thank you Lord! In fact almost every timber wolf and explorer attending the Pilgrimage mentioned how much they appreciated and valued the sacrament of Reconciliation known in layman terms as Confession, a gift that our boys seek out and desire to receive often exceeding the expectations of many adults, even as they approach adult hood at the age of 18!
From there we headed off to Montreal for our first stop - St. Patrick's Basilica, the only major English speaking church in Montreal for the noon Mass. Upon arrival we hustled into the Basilica as we were running a little late for Mass, we made it just in time in spite of traffic delays due to major highway construction underway in Montreal. The Basilica was something awesome to see... steeped in history.
Before the Priest who was presiding at Mass gave the final blessing he formally acknowledged our presence and invited the leader to come to the pulpit to introduce our movement to members of the congregation present... we were warmly welcomed and received a warm round of applause from those present.
After Mass and a tour of St. Patrick's we drove to Mount Royal for an awesome view of the city of Montreal before enjoying an outdoor lunch in a park overlooking many years of great history. We ran around a bit, had a little snooze on the soft grass and contemplated life amongst the great cultural facets of the City of Montreal. Before we knew it, it was time to depart of an awesome place known as St. Joseph Oratory!
The sight of this massive church, a place to reflect from our very being, a place to share to a miniscule extent in the suffering in the Passion of our Lord Jesus by climbing the long stair case on our knees was very compelling and challenging. It did indeed prove to be a tough one as we moved up all of the steps seen from the base of the Oratory to the main entrance praying the rosary and then the chaplet of divine mercy for every step that we took on our knees!
Antonio said that it felt really good to suffer, to show Jesus that I love him, while Joon had similar reflections when he said the stairs were painful but I was glad that I suffered for Jesus, to be able to share his pain a little!
We arranged for a personal tour of the Oratory and found out some interesting facts. Did you know that at 263m (863 ft.), the shrine of St. Joseph is the highest point in Montréal. Its dome is second in size only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The basilica is largely Italian Renaissance in style, its dome recalling the shape of the Duomo in Florence, but of much greater size and somewhat less grace. Inside are outstanding sculptures, stained glass windows (depicting 10 scenes from Canadian religious history) and many other artworks.
Liturgical music and concerts are provided by a great organ (with 5,811 pipes), a carillon in 56 bells in their own building, and a choir school.
Also inside we toured a museum dedicated to Brother André, where a central exhibit is his embalmed heart. The heart was stolen in 1972 but recovered two years later.
Outside, a Way of the Cross lined with sculptures, was the setting of scenes for the film Jesus of Montréal. Brother André's wooden chapel, with his tiny bedroom, is on the grounds and open to the public.
We stopped off at the tomb of Brother Andre to pray for his intercession as he so often did during his earthly life, his requests for intercession to St. Joseph was credited with the healing of some 435 people alone in the year 1916!
At the end of our very rewarding trek to St. Joseph Oratory, we trekked off our hot and sweaty bodies to a community indoor pool near the Seminary for a relaxing and enjoyable swim... us older members spent the majority of our time in the pool in the hot tub like pool enclosure to soak away any aches and pains that we earned that day. It's amazing how much energy our Timber Wolves and Explorers held in reserve to get our monies worth.... together we had a great time!
We returned right on time for an awesome dinner at the Seminary and then together as a group we quickly cleaned up the dining room, learned how to use the automated dishwashing equipment, did the dishes and set the tables for our morning breakfast.
We concluded our evening with some heartfelt discussions about the day's activities, our experiences and a very lively question and answer period! Before heading off to bed we once again entered into deep prayer that must have been very pleasing to the Lord.
Saturday morning was upon us almost as quickly as we put down our heads for our nights rest, it dawned once again gloriously warm and sunny, the start of another (although rare) good weather day.
We wasted no time to get up, shower, participate in morning prayers and general discussions before consuming enough energy through a scrumptious breakfast to get us on our way. Cleanup was much quicker and more efficient then yesterday as we further mastered the value of team work and the related kitchen equipment. We departed for Montreal right to the scheduled minute of 9.15 a.m.
Our first stop was the most beautiful and breathtaking Cathedral that we had ever seen in Canada, the ever awe inspiring Notre-Dame Cathedral! On a down note it was very disappointing to learn that we had to pay an admission fee as a uniformed youth group who was there to not only appreciate and learn about the Cathedral, but most importantly of all to pray together within a very holy place.
Together we reflected on the majesty of what we were seeing, the stories told in the form of stained glass pictures to grand hand carved statues and much much more. This was an ideal forum for us to meditate and to reach out to the Lord as we contemplated the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary together that day.
We left the Cathedral with a deep sense of peace, awe and wonderment about the beauty and attention to detail paid by those early Canadian craftsmen who toiled many hours to create beauty in the honour of the Lord.
Upon leaving the Cathedral we headed off to a local area park to play, enjoy lunch and take advantage of a rare warm rain free day as the summer of 2008 was anything but an ideal one. We found a play ground with equipment just made for our boys... and they took full advantage of the opportunity!
As FNE Explorers we are very sensitive to the beauty created by the Lord in the great diversity of the world around us known as illustrated through nature. We headed off to the world famous Biodome where one could experience the heat and moisture of a rain forest to the south pole with ice, snow and penguins happily playing and swimming in the ice cold water. We would not be disappointed; the creativity with all types of exotic birds flying about freely to a range of mammals living in replicated environments to getting up close and personal to different species of fish was exciting and thought provoking. The time in this location went by far too fast yet once again...
After all of this adventure, we retreated from the very busy city of Montreal to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament where adoration takes place at all time other than Masses, Weddings or Funerals.
Upon arrival the Shrine we entered into a world of complete silence, blocking out the noise of worldly affairs that often distract us from our real mission in life, to love and serve the Lord as good Timber Wolves, Explorers and leaders. Staff from the shrine expressed surprise at our arrival and concern that these young boys could possibly respect the silence expected and required and then to remain largely motionless either on one's knees by the communion rail (which most of us did) or seated in a pew. The Lord was pleased as we then all entered into a personal deep quiet private prayer one on one with Jesus who is truly present there in front of us in the Monstrance although be it as he humbles himself to remain hidden in the host. Eric indicated afterwards that he felt Jesus come to him through his time at Adoration while Daryl felt especially at peace as he and Jesus gazed at each other with a deep sense of love and joy. This brief one hour period brought us much peace and joy. Upon departing the Shrine the staff came out to marvel at what they had seen and exclaimed that they had not seen youth such as ours in such deep contemplation and prayer as to what they saw in action today.
We concluded our busy day with a second swim in a local area Cornwall pool, dinner at the Seminary, evening prayers, and like in the last two nights... no talking once it was time for bed and within a short few minutes we all fell into a well deserved sleep as we prepared for our concluding day of our Pilgrimage and then the drive back to Toronto. As to our stay at the Seminary Joon offered up his thoughts: "I really felt at home while staying at the Seminary, the brothers were all so happy and joyful and studied hard, they really set a good example for us to follow. "
7.45 a.m. Rise and shine, showers and into uniform
8.30 a.m. Breakfast, packing and cleanup, pack vans with gear
10.00 a.m. Depart for Montreal for 12.15 pm Mass and Tour of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral
We enjoyed this Mass, tour of the Cathedral (a mini St. Peter's), a swim in the Montreal Olympic Pool (A real highlight for all participants) and then our drive back to Toronto. Was the Pilgrimage a success... well an unofficial poll of the members highlight that 100% of them can't wait till our next Pilgrimage!
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