Inspiration – The pilgrimage and its meaning

Joseph L’Heureux,
Lay Minister

We are pilgrims on this earth. That is, we are away from our God during our time on this Earth and we will eventually return to Him after death.

Of course, not all believe this, but all religions make pilgrimages of one sort or another.

Our Muslims brothers and sisters have their Mecca, which is where they go yearly. It is to them as Jerusalem is to Jews, Muslims and Christians and for Catholics, Rome.

Our native communities also have their pilgrimages to Lac Ste. Anne, here in Alberta. In British Columbia, there is a site north of Prince George where pilgrims go to pray, and some go to be healed at Rose Prince’s grave.

There is also a pilgrimage site north of Bruderheim, Alta. Called Skaro, which is very popular among the Ukrainian and Russian communities, as pilgrimages are also very popular in the Eastern rite of the Christian faith.

At Lac Ste. Anne approximately 25,000 people gather for a five-day session of prayer. These figures vary from 20,000 to 30,000 each year.

My point is this is a very popular site for the native community and many come to pray yearly and look for healing – some spiritual, some physical healings or emotional. Always when one is seeking there is something for everyone.

For others it is a renewal of our faith. I have personally visited this site yearly for 20 odd years and most times have experienced that renewal of faith.

Why?

Well, a lady has been seen walking on the water over the 130 odd years since its origin. The Blackfoot, Bloods, Cree, Dene from the Cold Lake area and Northwest Territories, some even come from Northern Saskatchewan, Lac La Ronge and even northern Manitoba, The Pas area.

Some would say it’s Ste. Anne, Mother Mary’s mother, which also happens to be the name of our community parish here in Joussard. Others would claim it is mother Mary herself. These pilgrimage dates coincide with Ste. Anne and St. Joachim feast day, mother Mary’s parents on July 26, and the anniversary of Mother Mary’s assumption into heaven on August 15, which just happens to be this weekend.

Before the popularity of cars, trucks, trailers and motorhomes, years ago people would complete pilgrimages with horses and wagon to Lac Ste. Anne for a week’s stay. On the way back to all points north, many would stop at the Joussard’s St. Bruno Mission. This was quite a site for all us children who would see the mission yard full of teepees, tents and teams of horses, packed with hundreds of pilgrims.

Here at Joussard, like at Lac Ste. Anne, we would also have a blessing of the lake. All fishing boats proceeded to the mission harbour in procession where all were blessed. This was quite a site.

In Russia, many make yearly pilgrimages by walking to many holy sites, bringing blessings to those who accommodate and host their visits. Many of these are just practicing hospitality, gratuitously.

In France and Spain, many make a 500-mile walk ending at St. James Church in Muxia, Spain where St. James the Apostle apparently died.

Others in Italy would make the pilgrimage into Lourdes, France, where Mother Mary appeared in 1858. I have personally met such pilgrims.

In Canada, we also have Ste. Anne de Beaupre, PQ, which is a famous pilgrimage site every summer and Marmora, ONT, which Mother Mary seems to have blessed with visitations [not authenticated]. This site I have personally seen the miracle of the sun dancing as in Fatima, Portugal, 1917, at Mother Mary’s last appearance there.

Let’s not forget Guadalupe, Mexico City, where mother Mary appeared in 1531. Millions of South American pilgrims make a pilgrimage every year. Thousands come just to the anniversary of her appearance on December 12 which I can personally attest to.

Where am I going with this? It just proves our spiritual side needs renewing. After years of living with the knocks of daily life, we all develop a need to be renewed, reminding us where we came from and where we will all return.

Millions and millions of people do these pilgrimages every year to a site of their preference. Have you a yearly pilgrimage on your agenda, or at least a brief one on Sunday?

As John Wayne would say, “Where are you going, pilgrim?”

May God bless your pilgrimage!

Next week: Pastor Terry Goerz of Redeemer Lutheran.

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