The high school vocations pilgrimage is offered to young men and women in high school on an alternating basis, and is a chance for students to explore God’s call in their lives.
Led by members of the faculty and staff, along with clergy who serve as chaplains, students embrace the idea of becoming pilgrims – travelers not only interested in the historical significance of a site, but in how they themselves might be moved by its meaning.
With regular opportunities for prayer and reflection, the pilgrims also attend daily Mass and have access to the sacrament of confession.
Past destinations have been Italy, where pilgrims encountered the beauty of the eternal city of Rome and the quiet of hillside towns such as Assisi and San Giovanni Rotondo; the Holy Land, where the high school boys set out on a new course to Nazareth, Galilee, the Jordan Valley, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, and Calvary; and most recently France, where the girls followed in the footsteps of Sts. Joan of Arc, Bernadette, Margaret Mary, Therese of Lisieux, Catherine Laboure and Catherine of Siena, to cities such as Paris, Avignon, Lisieux, Lourdes, Chartres, and Paray Le Monial.
Read one student’s reflection after returning from the 2015 pilgrimage to France:
“In France, I realized how important prayer is by spending so much time with it. I realized that saying the Hail Mary and Our Father is important, but personal prayer is also vital. I was able to enhance my relationship with God by spending time just talking to Him. This became very clear to me at the Rosary Procession in Lourdes. It was a rainy night, so we were the only people there for the procession. Father Moriarty led us around Lourdes as we prayed the rosary and I was completely at peace. I came to realize that God will take care of things and that He loves us all like a Father. We ended the procession in front of the Cathedral. There we had time for quiet prayer, in front of a painting of Mary. It was so beautiful and I will never forget that night. As we walked back to the hotel, some of the girls from choir got together to sing the Tantum Ergo. All in all, it was an incredibly powerful night for me.”
Fr. Moriarty on the 2015 Pilgrimage to France:
“France as a destination for our High School girls’ pilgrimage is something new. It was my hope to introduce our young ladies to some very apropos female saints from France, and end the pilgrimage at one of the most renowned Marian shrines in the world, Lourdes – all for the purpose of helping them prayerfully consider whether God is calling them to the religious life, marriage, or the single life.”
A Day in the Life of a High School Pilgrim
Day One – Depart USA: At the end of the school day on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, we boarded our plane for Paris, France.
Date Two – Paris: After an almost 9 hour overnight flight and having to contend with serious jet lag, our goal for arrival day was usually to begin the process of adjusting to the time difference by doing our very best to stay awake at all costs until evening!
We arrived in Paris to celebrate Holy Mass at the shrine of the Miraculous Medal and resting place of St. Catherine Labouré. St. Catherine is a great example of being open to the will of God for the sake of the sanctification and salvation of the world – a very fitting beginning point for our pilgrimage! Catherine was awakened on July 18, 1830, by a radiant child who said, “Come with me to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you!” Our Lady said to Catherine, “God wishes to entrust you with a mission.” Her mission was to spread devotion to Our Lady who was conceived without sin and to have the vision she beheld struck into a medal. From the second apparition we have the following prayer given by Mary herself; “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Afterwards we visited the resting place of St. Vincent de Paul in a nearby chapel and learned about this great saint and his care for the poor.
Our day also included a bus tour of Parisian highlights including the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées. An unexpected bonus was when we learned that students 17 years of age and younger are granted free admission to the Louvre Museum. Not wanting to miss this opportunity we adjusted our schedule and made room for the ladies to visit this world famous museum. We split into groups and ensured our students were able to see the most famous of all the works of art in the Louvre: the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and the Venus de Milo. What a tremendous experience!
Day Three – Paris: We began our day with Holy Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in the sanctuary and choir stall area. Following mass we had a tour of the Cathedral which provided a wonderful opportunity for the ladies to witness faith in action over several generations as faithful Christians labored to make this grand edifice to the praise and glory of Almighty God.
In the afternoon we visited the Basilica of Sacré Coeur on Mont Martre. This beautiful church was built at the beginning of the twentieth century and during a time of spiritual and cultural malaise for the nation of France. It was hoped by the population of France at that time that the sacrifices involved could serve as a sufficient penance and act of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Cloutier offered a reflection on the French Revolution, specifically, how it was an unfortunate revolt against all authority.
Day Four – Lisieux: Our theme for Sunday, March 22, was St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Little Way, which she described as, “…the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.” Although the weather was cool and wet, the love and warmth of the “Little Flower” was so very evident. This saint and Doctor of the Church who died so young knew her vocation was love. She wrote, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that heart was burning with love. I understood it was Love alone that made the Church members act, and if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places…in a word, that it was eternal!”
We celebrated Holy Mass in a private chapel at the Basilica built in honor of St. Thérèse, then visited the Carmelite convent and her childhood home of her parents. Both Martin and Zelie Martine, her father and mother, have been beatified – holy families make great saints!
Day Five – Chartres Cathedral: We were blessed to have clear skies for our visit to the 13th-century Cathedral in Chartres, France. This amazing gothic church, along with its towering spires rising so far over the surrounding village, is quite a sight to behold. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and also houses the relic of the holy veil of the Blessed Virgin. We were so very fortunate to have as our tour guide Malcolm Miller, arguably the most renowned historian and author on Chartres Cathedral! With great knowledge and insight he explained many of the famous stained glass windows, most of which recount biblical events.
Ms. Caroline Becker and I both spoke on the theme of the day – true beauty. Mrs. Mary Appel shared about the Life of St. Joan of Arc who gave such powerful witness of fidelity and obedience to God, both on the battlefield and at the stake, after being falsely accused of witchcraft.
Day Six – Never & Paray Le Monial: Our Theme for the Day was inspired by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, “The Power of God’s Love for Us: ‘I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.’” We departed Paris early in the morning and celebrated Holy Mass in Nevers, where St. Bernadette Soubirous spent the last years of her life in the convent of St. Gildard and where her incorrupt body is visible.
We continued for several hours on the bus to our hotel in Paray Le Monial. Without question, this small river town was the most idyllic and seemed to come right out of the middle ages. After dinner at a quaint and perfectly located hotel we went for a walk around the city which was so beautifully lit-up at night.
Day Seven – Paray Le Monial & Avignon: We celebrated Holy Mass in the convent chapel of the Visitation sisters. Very fittingly, it was the Fest of the Annunciation and our theme for the day was: “Receiving Grace without being Afraid: Humbly and Confidently saying Yes.” In that very same chapel while praying before the Blessed Sacrament in 1674, St. Margaret Mary saw our Lord: “He was a blaze of glory – his five wounds shining like five suns, flames issuing from all parts of his human form, especially his divine breast.” Her special calling was to reveal to the world that Jesus’ heart was over flowing with love and contained all the graces needed for salvation. Since that time First Friday devotions and the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus have become devotions practiced throughout the world.
The Divine Heart is an ocean full of all good things,
wherein poor souls can cast all their needs;
it is an ocean of humility to drown all our sadness,
an ocean of mercy to those in distress,
an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty.
-St. Margaret Mary
We then traveled along the Rhone River, famous for its wine, and arrived later in the day at Avignon – residence of the popes for almost seventy years.
Day Eight – Avignon & Lourdes: The formidable walls and parapets of the former papal palace look more like a fortress than a residence. A French pope decided to take up residence here rather than in Rome, an action that pleased the French kings who wanted more control over the church. It also eventually led to what is called the Great Western Schism – a time of great division and confusion when several different men claimed to be popes. St. Catherine of Siena strongly and pointedly advocated for the return of the papacy to Rome. Her courage and faithfulness inspired our theme for the day: God works through the Faithful, not only the Hierarchy, to purify and sanctify the Church and our World.” We all have a part to play in co-operating with the grace of God for the sake of the sanctification of the Church and the world!
A lengthy bus ride brought us to our final destination of our pilgrimage. Slowly but surely the Pyrenees Mountains rose up in front of us as we neared the mountain pass village of Lourdes. Immediately upon arrival we celebrated Mass in one of the crypt chapels underneath the Lourdes French Gothic Basilica. This was an Ordinary Form Mass in Latin. Our ladies sang their responses in Latin so very beautifully!
The month of March is considered to be part of the “low season”; therefore, there were no large, publicly organized candle light processions. Nevertheless, we braved wind and rain to make our own rosary procession! To add to our sacrifices – every pilgrimage has sacrifices – we were not able to get very close to the grotto of our Lady of Lourdes due to construction; yet, a positive and prayerful spirit was displayed by all.
Day Nine – Lourdes: We were blessed again by God with clear skies for most of the day. Fr. Cloutier offered Holy Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form and we prayed the Stations of the Cross utilizing the best outdoor stations I have ever seen and so perfectly situated on a large hill adjacent to the Lourdes Basilica. Admittedly, our journey up the steep path was distracting since at every turn we were offered better and better vantage points of the snowcapped and towering Pyrenees Mountains. Being distracted by the beauty of God’s creation is not such a bad thing!
In imitation of the Blessed Virgin’s request to St. Bernadette, we all drank some of the Lourdes water and washed our faces asking for the healing power of God’s gift of faith to increase in our lives. Besides touring where St. Bernadette lived, the girls had ample time for prayer and for confession during the day. Mrs. Houghton reflected on the life of St. Bernadette, in particular, the saint’s humility, tenacity and willingness to follow God’s will. Our Lady of Lourdes told the young girl to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners and had a specific message for Bernadette herself, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next.” We ended our last day with another rosary procession, meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries. The next morning, Saturday, March 28, we woke early to begin our journey home.
I trust that this pilgrimage has been spiritually beneficial for our young ladies and will prove fruitful not only in regard to vocations to the consecrated life but also in the faithfulness and holiness of each pilgrim! Praise God!
I am grateful to all those who sponsored our visits to the various churches and shrines. Your support was essential in our being able to provide this once-in-a-lifetime and life-changing experience to our students! You were in our thoughts and prayers every step of the way.
Thank you to our chaperones, Jean Houghton, Caroline Becker, Mary Appel and Fr. Cloutier for their assistance in providing for a safe and spiritually enriching pilgrimage!
Saints Agnes, Bernadette, Margaret Mary, Therese, Joan of Arc, Catherine Laboure and Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Mark Moriarty
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