Jun 20, 2008

A Very Public Display of Faith

Thursday evening, pilgrims attending the conference and local Quebecers joined together for a procession through the streets of the city, with the Blessed Sacrament serving as the focal point. For many who speak of the secularism of our country, particularly Quebec, it was a powerful statement of solidarity and personal witness. More than 15,000 pilgrims took part in the procession, singing reflective hymns, silently praying and enjoying fellowship with each other.

A special moment for the Toronto pilgrims took place when we saw Archbishop Thomas Collins walk by in procession with the hundreds of other bishops of the world gathered for the occasion. His Grace stepped out of the procession after identifying the nine large Archdiocese of Toronto flags, and proceeded to walk among the Toronto pilgrims for the entire route. It was a powerful witness, having our shepherd leading us on the journey. Many commented later that it was incredible to be among the Archbishop, to really feel connected with him on this important leg of the pilgrimage.
Another special moment occurred at the end of our walk when I witnessed two of our pilgrims walk by a middle-aged couple out on their porch to observe what was no doubt a somewhat unique scene of 15,000 strong walking, praying and singing. Seizing the moment, the two pilgrims walked up to the porch and extended a hand of goodwill while passing on their own candles that had been illuminated throughout the walk. The grateful couple expressed their thanks, in receiving the candle. But it was more than a candle – with our theme of the congress being “The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World”, these pilgrims were passing on the light of Christ. It was another one of those quiet but grace filled moments.

Ah yes, a word about the weather. It rained most of the entire day – as our buses arrived at our drop off point for the walk, the rain ceased and we enjoyed comfortable weather as we walked the streets of the city. When we arrived back to our pick up point, as the last pilgrim stepped on the bus, it began to pour. Maybe we’ve got some connections…

Photos: Emanuel Pires

We capped the evening off with the luminous mysteries on the bus ride home led by a chaplain on each bus. All gathered for Benediction before putting an end to this very long but fruitful day.

As an old Japanese proverb states, every journey begins with one simple step – thousands were taken tonight – there’s plenty of room for more to join in the ongoing pilgrimage – tonight’s powerful witness told the province and country that all are welcome to join this family of faith in the experience of a lifetime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The people of Quebec City had the first Eucharistic Celebration in 50 years. It was quite a spectacle and certainly worth the walk!
Some people walked to St Francis of Assissi Church, others to St Roch, and still others all the way to the waterfront. The procession was so long that it was easy for one end of the procession to lose the other. A great blessing for all .