Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part IV (St. Anne de Beaupre)

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part IV (St. Anne de Beaupre)

St. Anne de Beaupre.

One of the highlights of my pilgrimage to Quebec was the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre. Located about 20 miles outside of Quebec City to the east. It has been a pilgrimage site for Catholics for about 350 years now! There has been a church named after St. Anne there ever since sailors were rescued by her intercession. There have been many miracles attributed to St. Anne’s intercession, and many have left their crutches behind in the monstrous basilica attesting to their miraculous healing. In fact, even Protestant skeptics have investigated such claims and have come away believers! St. Anne has a huge following in Quebec, and I saw a statue of her in every church that I visited between Montreal and Quebec City. We don’t see nearly as much attention to her here in the States, perhaps we should change that.

One of the many embossed brass plates that cover the front doors.

After getting into Quebec City in the evening after visiting the Basilica of Notre Dame du Cap, I ate some dinner in the historic area of Quebec City. Bright and early the next morning I headed off to the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre. The basilica steeples can be seen from quite a distance out, and the structure towers next to the highway running from Quebec City to the little town of St. Anne de Beaupre. The basilica that stands there now replaced a smaller one which burned in 1922. The current church was begun in 1923 and finally completed in 1976. It is in my opinion some of the best of modern church architecture, built in a Romanesque style. I spent a majority of the day at the basilica. I went to Mass in the morning and then spent the rest of the meandering around, spending time in prayer, and taking pictures of almost every square inch of the splendid structure. The mosaics of the life of St. Anne which cover the entire ceiling are radiant, as is the statue of her located to the left of the sanctuary to which pilgrims flock to, to make their needs known. There are several side altars going around the main sanctuary that are quite spectacular. The lower chapel is also very nice, and there are some wonderful paintings on the walls, one my favorites being St. Ambrose and St. Augustine.
The mosaics adorning the ceiling of St. Anne de Beaupre
One of the side altars, dedicated to St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Located under the church next to the lower chapel there is the body of Venerable Father Alfred Pampalon. I had not heard of this great friend in heaven before my visit. He has been known to help those dealing with addictions of every kind. You can visit his tomb and pray before his marble casket and ask him for his intercession as many have done before. In his youth Father Pampalon used to make a pilgrimage to the shrine on foot as well as by boat. I picked up his biography in the gift shop of the museum, which is located right next to the basilica. The museum is also well worth seeing and it covers the history of St. Ann de Beaupre as well as some of the history of Catholicism in Quebec. Like the other shrines there is also a historic chapel on the hill next to the main basilica, but it was closed when I was there along with the replica of the Scala Sancta next to it, because of work being done on the embankments.

The tomb of the Venerable Father Alfred Pampalon
Painting of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine in the lower chapel

On the other side of the lower chapel there is a Blessed Sacrament chapel, where you can spend time in prayer with Our Lord. After you’ve spent time in prayer, there is also a gift shop in the back of the basilica which has nice statues, rosaries, and other gifts. The statues are reasonably priced, but I found a great place in Quebec City that has hand painted statues at incredible prices. So I was glad I did not buy one there. I will cover that in another post! All in all, I arrived at the chapel around 8:30 in the morning and did not leave after 5PM or so. It was an all day event, and well worth the time I spent there. If you are ever visiting Quebec City do not miss out an incredible opportunity to visit St. Anne de Beaupre.

The splendid capitals and mosaics.
The ever radiant St. Anne in the main basilica.
Side altar containing the relics of St. Anne
What you see when you walk through the doors.
What a cool statue of St. Michael.
Every inch of the basilica is worth a picture.
Saint Anne, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New- Orthodox Arts Journal

There is a new online journal called the 'Orthodox Arts Journal'. It has many articles covering iconography, music and their role in the Church and her Liturgy. Although it is an Eastern Orthodox journal, there are some great articles on the site which can be beneficial to us as Catholics as well. The ecumenical discussions with the Orthodox Churches is one that I think is worth perusing with greater effort, since we share so much in our Christian heritage, including the Sacraments. If you are interested in Church art and how important it is to our faith, then you may find some of the articles interesting. Enjoy!

Mission Statement
The Orthodox Arts Journal publishes articles and news for the promotion of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts. The Journal covers visual arts, music, liturgical ceremony and texts, and relevant art history and theory. The Journal presents these topics together to highlight the unified witness of the arts to the beauty of the Kingdom of God and to promulgate an understanding of how the arts work together in the worship of the Church. In the spirit of the revival of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts sparked by Kontoglou and Ouspensky, the Journal will publicize excellence in contemporary liturgical arts, emphasizing fidelity to the Church’s tradition of beauty and craft.

St. Paul Rebuked St. Peter = No Papacy?

The absurd Protestant fantasy of Saint Paul rebuking Saint Peter in Galatians II as a proof against the papacy is often conjured up again today centuries after it was invented by the likes of the Protestant arch-heretics. Like their predecessors they like to use Galatians II vs 11 to shake the faith of Catholics in regard to the papacy. For instance, Protestants today quote the blundering madcap John Calvin who once wrote,

"This is another thunderbolt which strikes the Papacy of Rome. It exposes the impudent pretensions of the Roman Antichrist, who boasts that he is not bound to assign a reason, and sets at defiance the judgment of the whole Church. Without rashness, without undue boldness, but in the exercise of the power granted him by God, this single individual chastises Peter, in the presence of the whole Church; and Peter submissively bows to the chastisement. Nay, the whole debate on those two points was nothing less than a manifest overthrow of that tyrannical primacy, which the Romanists foolishly enough allege to be founded on divine right. If they wish to have God appearing on their side, a new Bible must be manufactured; if they do not wish to have him for an open enemy, those two chapters of the Holy Scriptures must be expunged."

I have to laugh at the arrogance of Calvin, a "thundebolt!" Whoa...! As if he had just discovered the secret of how to bring down Achilles! We must now abandon the Scriptures! There is so much hot air in the writings of Calvin, that if you cut out all of the ad-hominem attacks in his 'Institutes' or those in his Biblical commentaries you would have only the scraps of a few paragraphs of text left to read. This would certainly cut down on wading through all of his boorish blabber, to which he is now accountable before the almighty throne of God for! If we however examine this passage of Scripture closely, we see that his foolish assertions do not hold up to scrutiny. I encourage you to read the following commentary written by Cornelius Lapide pertaining to this passage, which goes into great detail in examining what the Church Fathers had to say about it. Yet, there is one simple explanation that strikes at the core of Calvin's warped interpretation which Lapide summarizes at the end. Is St. Paul's rebuke of St. Peter, the "thunderbolt" or ace in the hole that Calvin so childishly though it was? No, it was only another conjured up fantasy in his mind used to reject Christ and His Church.

"Some one will object then: Since Paul corrected Peter, he was of equal, if not superior authority; in other words Paul, and not Peter, was the head of the Apostles.
I deny the consequence. For superiors may, in the interests of truth, be corrected by their inferiors. Augustine (Ep. xix.), Cyprian, Gregory, and S. Thomas lay down this proposition in maintaining also that Peter, as the superior, was corrected by his inferior. The inference from what they say is that Paul was equal to the other Apostles, inferior to Peter, and hence they all were Peter’s inferiors; they were the heads of the whole Church, and Peter was their chief. Gregory (Hom. 18 in Ezech.) says: “Peter kept silence, that the first in dignity might be first in humility;” and Augustine says the same (Ep. xix. ad Hieron.): “Peter gave to those who should follow him a rare and holy example of humility under correction by inferiors, as Paul did of bold resistance in defence of truth to subordinates against their superiors, charity being always preserved.”
Commentary below taken from Lapide

Ver. 11.—I withstood him to the face. Erasmus and others interpret this to mean in appearance, outwardly, feignedly, and by previous arrangement. The literal meaning is better: I openly resisted Peter, in order that the public scandal caused by him might he removed by a public rebuke (Augustine, Ambrose, Bede, Anselm, and nearly all other authorities). 

Because he was to be blamed. (1.) Because he had been blamed (κατεγνωσμένος) by other brethren, whom Peter had offended by this proceeding, in their ignorance of his true intention and motive, as Chrysostom and Jerome say, or, as Ephrem turns it, “because they were offended in him.” (2.) Theophylact and Œcumenius understand it: Peter had been blamed by the other Apostles because he had eaten with the Gentile Cornelius at Cæsarea. Fearing lest he should be blamed again by them or by other Jews, he withdrew himself from all intercourse with the Gentiles. (3.) The opinion of Ambrose is better. He had fallen under the condemnation of the truth and of Gospel liberty, which sets the Gentiles free from the darkness and slavery of Judaism. (4.) The Vulgate reprehesiblis (in place of reprehensus, as with the authors cited above) is better, and agrees with the context. It gives the reason for resisting Peter, because he was to be blamed for simulating Judaism.
It may be asked whether Peter was really blameworthy and was actually blamed by Paul.

For many years there was a sharp dispute on this point between S. Jerome and S. Augustine, as may be seen in their epistles. Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Baronius answer in the negative, and hold that the rebuke was only theatrical. They argue that Peter, who had lawfully followed the Jewish customs at Jerusalem among Jews, lived as a Gentile among Gentiles at Antioch; when, however, the Jews arrived who had been sent to Antioch from Jerusalem by James, he withdrew from the Gentiles in favour of the Jews, lest he should offend those who had been the earliest to receive the faith (see ver. 9), and also that he might at the same time give Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, an opportunity of rebuking him, that by yielding he might teach the Jews that the time for Judaising was past. On the other side S. Augustine maintains that Peter was really blameworthy, and was blamed by Paul, as the record distinctly declares.

Out of this arose a dispute between S. Augustine and S. Jerome about simulation and lying. Jerome argued from this action of Peter’s that any similar simulation is lawful. Augustine denied that he did simulate, and laid down the unlawfulness of all lying or simulation, especially in matters of religion. In this second question, however, neither seems to have understood the other’s position. Jerome did not maintain that Peter told a lie, or put on a profession of Judaism while secretly detesting it, as Augustine, by the strength of his language, seems to think that Jerome held. The latter did not say that Peter was right in professing Judaism; if he did, then it would be right for any one of the faithful to make a profession of any false faith or any heresy. But Jerome only held what S. Chrysostom did, viz., that the rebuke administered to Peter by Paul was not really intended, but was merely theatrical, it being arranged between them beforehand that Paul should rebuke Peter, not for simulation, but for thoughtless dissimulation, and that Peter should accept the rebuke thus arranged for, that so the Judaisers might be really rebuked in the specious rebuke given to Peter, and with him might clearly understand that Judaising was forbidden. The lawfulness of such an action is not denied by Augustine, all he denies is that the proceeding was of this nature.

From this it appears how little ground Cassian (Collat. xvii. 17- 25), Origen, Clement, Erasmus, and others (see the passages in Sixtus of Sens, lib. v. annot. 105) had for founding the lawfulness of lying on this passage, or for endorsing the saying of Plato, that, although a lie is an evil thing, yet it is occasionally necessary, just as we use hellebore or some other drug, for this is now an established error condemned by Innocent III. (Tit. de Usuris, cap. super eo.), and by Ecclesiasticus vii. 14. Against it too S. Augustine writes two treatises, one entitled de Mendacio and the other contra Mendacium. Nor is there any exception to be taken here against Jerome and Chrysostom. They only understand and excuse a secret arrangement, whereby no lie was acted, but a rebuke was simulated, and this is a legitimate action, as is evident in military stratagems, when for instance, the enemy feigns to flee, and so draws its foes into an ambush.

A third question was also disputed between Jerome and Augustine as to the date when the Old Law came to an end, but this is outside the present subject, and it is sufficient therefore to say very briefly that the Old Law, so far as obligation goes, came to an end at Pentecost, when the New Law was promulgated, but that its observance did not wholly cease, it being lawful to observe it for a while, till the Jews had been gradually weaned from it, that so in due time it might receive an honourable burial. In this dispute Augustine seems to have held the stronger position.

It may be urged that in this act of Peter’s there was at least something sinful, if not actually erroneous in faith, as some have rashly asserted. By his action it may be thought that he thoughtlessly made a profession of Judaism, and so put a stumbling-block in the way of the Gentiles, and tempted them to Judaise with him. He had previously lived with the Gentiles, but he afterwards withdrew from them suddenly, went over to the Jews, and lived with them. From this the Gentiles might properly infer that judaism was necessary to salvation, both for him and themselves, and was binding on Christians; for though the Old Law, with its ceremonies, was not yet the cause of death, and might be preserved so as to secure for itself an honourable burial, and also to draw the Jews to the faith of Christ, yet it was dead, and in one sense death-giving, viz., to any one who should keep it on the supposition that it was binding on Christians. Although Peter, however, did not so regard it, yet his action was so imprudent as to give the Gentiles good reason for thinking that he did.

The justness of this remark is evident from the two remarks made by Paul: I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed; and: When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, Why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?—viz., by your simulation, or what the Greeks call hypocrisy. All this shows that either Peter sinned or that Paul told a lie, which God forbid. See S. Augustine (Ep. 8, 9, and 19 to Jerome), Cyprian (Ep. ad Quintum), Gregory (Hom. 18 in Ezech.), Ambrose, &c.

To what has been said I add this: This sin of Peter’s was venial, or material only, arising from want of thought, or from want of light and prudence. He seems to have thought that, being the Apostle of the Jews especially, that he ought rather to avoid scandalising them than the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles would readily recognise the rightfulness of this line of action. In so doing he erred, for “although,” as S. Thomas says, “the Holy Spirit who descended an the Apostles at Pentecost established them thereafter in such prudence and grace as to keep them from mortal sins, yet he did not also save them from venial sins.”

Observe that a lie may consist in deeds as well as in words. For example, if a man lead another to suppose by his conduct that he is a good man or his friend, when he is neither of these, then he is guilty of a lie. This lie by deed is what is properly called hypocrisy. Similarly, if any Christian at Rome wears a yellow cap he acts a lie, by thus giving himself out as a Jew.

Notice, however, with Cajetan that falsity in deeds is more easily excused than falsity in words. The reason is that words are express signs of mental concepts, but deeds are not, and so admit a wider interpretation. Hence if soldiers feign flight to draw the enemy into an ambush, they are not guilty of hypocrisy, as they would be if they were to say in words: “We flee, 0 enemy, because we are afraid of you.”
Again, observe the following rule: When there is a just cause of concealing the truth, no falsehood is involved. Peter, in the act under discussion, had partly a just cause, viz., the fear of offending the Jews. His withdrawal from the Gentiles was not a formal declaration that he was a Judaiser, but only tantamount to saying that he preferred to serve the Jews rather than the Gentiles, the just cause of this preference being that he was more an Apostle of the former than of the latter. I say partly, for he was not wholly justified in so acting, inasmuch as he was bound, as universal pastor, to care for the Jews without neglecting the Gentiles. Hence it follows also that in one respect he sinned through want of due consideration. The infirmity of man’s mind, however, is such that he cannot always hit the exact mean, and under complex circumstances benefit one without harming another.

Some one will object then: Since Paul corrected Peter, he was of equal, if not superior authority; in other words Paul, and not Peter, was the head of the Apostles.
I deny the consequence. For superiors may, in the interests of truth, be corrected by their inferiors. Augustine (Ep. xix.), Cyprian, Gregory, and S. Thomas lay down this proposition in maintaining also that Peter, as the superior, was corrected by his inferior. The inference from what they say is that Paul was equal to the other Apostles, inferior to Peter, and hence they all were Peter’s inferiors; they were the heads of the whole Church, and Peter was their chief. Gregory (Hom. 18 in Ezech.) says: “Peter kept silence, that the first in dignity might be first in humility;” and Augustine says the same (Ep. xix. ad Hieron.): “Peter gave to those who should follow him a rare and holy example of humility under correction by inferiors, as Paul did of bold resistance in defence of truth to subordinates against their superiors, charity being always preserved.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Priest Removed For Changing Liturgical Prayers

It seems that finally some bishops are starting to take action against priests who are destroying the Mass by changing the prayers to their own liking. Read story here.

Parishioners in Mount Carmel, Ill., learned Sunday that the Belleville Diocese has removed their pastor of 18 years for improvising prayers at Mass and has appointed a new priest.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part III (Trois Rivieres-Our Lady of the Cape)

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part III (Trois Rivieres, Our Lady of the Cape)

St Gerard Majella, L'Assomption, Quebec

After spending two days in Montreal I headed off towards Quebec City. I had a couple of stops in between however. I had on my itinerary a stop at Trois Rivieres to see the Ursluline convent and museum, and the shrine just north of Trois Rivieres called Notre Dame du Cap. On my way to Trois Rivieres, I noticed a church out in the country off of the interstate. The steeples of the church could be seen for miles, so I exited the highway to seek it out. After going through some farmland and over a river, the church stood before me. The name of it was Saint Gerard Majella, which is located in the municipality of L’Assomption. The side door to the church was open so I was able to go in and take some pictures. It was a beautiful country church, which I was glad to have found. After spending some time at St. Gerard I continued on to Trois Rivieres, where I had found an Ursuline covent and museum online that I wanted to see. On the way to the Ursuline convent however, I saw a huge Catholic church not far off of the main road in Trois Rivieres, and I wanted to see it. As I rode around the church, to my amazement I found the church boarded up. There were many window panes broken and it appeared as if it had been long abandoned. I continued on to the convent quite perplexed at the state of this church.

Inside of St. Gerard Majella
Painting inside St. Gerard's

Upon entering the museum, I met a lady who had grown up going to the Ursuline school. She took me into the chapel of the convent and gave a brief tour, explaining some of the history of the Ursulines in Trois-Rivieres. The chapel was absolutely beautiful. I took some pictures and I began to ask her questions about the church that was boarded up not far from the convent. She told me that the Catholic faith in Quebec was almost completely dead. She said that immediately following Vatican II, the people of Quebec became very lukewarm in their faith, and quickly following what is known as the “Quiet Revolution” in Quebec in 1965, most Catholics quit attending Mass altogether. She said it was “tragic.” The church that I saw boarded up she said was slated to be demolished because there was no interest to keep it around any longer. Paraphrasing her words, “Everything changed in Quebec after Vatican II. No one practices the faith anymore.”

Ursuline school of Trois-Rivieres
Ursuline museum and chapel of Trois-Revieres
Inside the Ursuline chapel of Trois-Rivieres

After spending some more time talking to her, I found out that there had been no new vocations to the Ursuline convent since 1977! The desire for women to enter the religious life declined sharply after the Second Vatican Council. In the US there has been some improvement with the traditional orders that are now gaining new vocations. Unfortunately there are few if any traditional orders in Quebec, and there are few if any religious vocations to match. The school at the convent is now run by laymen and laywomen. The age range of the nuns at the convent are now between 65 and the upper 90s. This is truly a sad state of affairs. The museum offered a 20 minute movie which contained five interviews with some nuns at the convent. They also expressed the fact that Vatican II effectively put an end to their vocations as they knew it. None of the sisters wore their habits any longer, and some looked to be sad that they no longer lived under the old rule that was traditionally established for their order. One nun said, paraphrasing, “I have nothing but the most fondest of memories for the religious life I once lived at the convent.” The visit to this convent was sobering, and it really demonstrated the consequences of the watered down Catholicism that followed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

State of decline since VCII

The next stop after the convent was the shrine of Notre Dame du Cape, or Our Lady of the Cape, in English. It is located just north of the town of Trois Rivieres, near the river. The location has an interesting story behind it, with the Blessed Virgin Mary giving the miracle of the ice bridge in 1879. The site soon became a favorite location for pilgrims and continues to be to this day. The main shrine was marginally better than Saint Joseph’s Oratory architecturally. It was not as cold and dreary as St. Joseph’s was, but it was not anything like the gem of the shrine at St. Anne de Beaupre that I would see just north of Quebec City. Like Saint Joseph’s there is the historic chapel next to the newer shrine, which I enjoyed much more. The grounds of the shrine were very nice, and they had a rosary garden as well as large outdoor stations of the cross, which were done very nicely. There was also a gift shop, but most of the statues were overpriced, and almost all of the books were in French, which was probably a good thing, since I usually accumulate too many books as it is! All in all I probably spent a few hours at the shrine before heading off to Quebec City.

Notre Dame du Cap historic chapel with newer shrine behind
Inside of Notre Dame du Cap shrine
One of the large windows in Notre Dame du Cap
Altar in the historic chapel of Notre Dame du Cap
Rosary garden at Notre Dame du Cap
The Annunciation, Notre Dame du Cap

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part II (St Joseph’s Oratory)

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part II (St Joseph’s Oratory)

Saint Joseph's Oratory.

My final pilgrimage stop in Montreal was St. Joseph’s Oratory, home of Saint Andre Bessette, canonized in 2010. I will say that I have mixed feelings about St. Joseph’s Oratory, but visiting the tomb of Brother Andre was not one of them, since it was a blessing to kneel at his tomb and ask for his intercession. When I first walked out in front of the Oratory, it was certainly a sight to behold. It is monstrous in size and it sits upon a high hill that makes its massive size even more breathtaking from below. In front there are several flights of steps, which I made my way up on my knees. The center flight of steps were put in for pilgrims to offer penance as they approach the Oratory. I prayed a ‘Hail Mary’ on each step as I climbed the hill on the steps. After getting to the top I went into building where they had a slide show of pictures showing the Oratory being built, I then proceeded into the lower chapel where they soon had Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. After spending some time in prayer, I then continued on to the candle shrine just outside the chapel, where many crutches are left by pilgrims who were healed by God through the intercession of Brother Andre, very cool. His tomb is found right next to this candle lit shrine. I spent some time prayer at his tomb. There are several floors in the Oratory, one containing a gift shop, etc. At the very top is the main church, which is where my trip to the Oratory kind of went south, so to speak.

The Tomb of Brother Andre Bessette.

As I walked into the main church my enthusiasm began to decline quite quickly. I felt I had just been sealed up in King Tut’s tomb. It was the coldest feeling I think I have had in a Catholic church. For one, it was huge, but the architecture did not match what you saw from outside at the bottom of the hill. It is my understanding that Brother Andre never saw the final plans for the layout of the main church. He would have been probably been horrified to see this. I could not imagine the work that went into building this, only to find that they completely botched the entire project when they put the main church on top. The only part worth looking at were the Byzantine style mosaics going around the main archway, which do not fit any of the architecture whatsoever. On the walls there are these cold, long, thin looking totem pole figures, and the doors to the confessional have almost unrecognizable figures molded into them. The sanctuary is not much better, and there is some sort of glass case on the altar which I could not figure out as to its function. The tabernacle is found behind the altar in another room, and I cannot explain it design either. This experience kind of put a damper on things, so I went back down and spent more time with Brother Andre, and I left feeling much better. Yes, God is in control, and so I left a bit more high spirited that I would have had I not stopped to see Brother Andre again.

The main church of St. Joseph's
Totem pole figures on the walls
From behind the altar, glass case below crucifix, tomb style door ways, etc.
Door to the confessional. "Let me out!"

While the Oratory was worth visiting for my spiritual enrichment, which included worshiping God,  doing penance, and visiting the great humble Saint Andre, it was a big disappointment architecturally. While the architecture of the structure itself from the outside is quite a spectacle, the inside does not impress, but only disappoints since the magnificence of the outside does not match the dismal, almost iconoclastic theme of the inside. If you are in Montreal, of course I would still recommend going to the Oratory, but don’t get your hopes up if you think you are going to be blown away with the beauty of the main church. Let me end this post on high note. I also really enjoyed the little historic chapel that stands behind the new Oratory. It is a humble, yet reverent little chapel with a beautiful little altar in it. Above you can see what Brother Andre’s room looked like, and that was pretty cool. All in all St Joseph’s Oratory was worth visiting, and it was a testament that God’s grace cannot be stopped by horrible architecture. My next stop on the pilgrimage was Trois Rivieres, which lies almost halfway between Montreal and Quebec.

Historic chapel behind the Oratory.
The altar of the historic chapel. Contrast this ray of warmth to the tomb of the Oratory.
The room of Brother Andre above the chapel.
The heart of Brother Andre Bessette
Brother Andre, pray for us!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Through the Blessed Mother, You Find Christ!

I took these photos at the Cathedral in Quebec City. There is more theology in these pictures than words can express.

From the Cathedral in Quebec City

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part I (Bon Secours)

Approaching Notre Dame de Bon Secours in Montreal
Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part I (Bon Secours)

    This is the second installment of my series covering my pilgrimage to Quebec. The story of how Catholicism established society in Quebec, which later also influenced society in the northeast United States is a moving one. Devout Catholic men and women left the shores of France to establish a New France across the Atlantic, which often involved a dangerous stormy ride lasting more than a month! Although Jacques Cartier landed on the shores of New France in 1534, it was Samuel de Champlain who is considered to be the true founder of New France and Quebec, being that he introduced a new permanent settlement in 1608. Along with him came the great Catholic men and women who established the Church like Blessed Francois de Laval, Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marie Guyart of the Incarnation, and many others.

    Rightfully the French colonizers refused to allow Protestants to come over to New France, for the Catholics in those days understood well the dangers of allowing heretics to infiltrate society. As a result, the Catholic faith was well established and was able to begin missionary work of converting the savages of North America. Just for the record, the word “savage” is not used in a derogatory way here but follows its original usage as referring to the “natives” or “aborigines.” Although it was a struggle these Catholic missionaries traveled through harsh winters bringing the faith to the Native Americans of the area. The Saint Lawrence River area was where most of the first settlements were founded, and as the settlers moved inland they quickly established new settlements, Quebec being the first large one. Down the river in 1642 settlers arrived in Mount Royal, or what we call Montreal. This is where the pilgrimage began for me.

Inside Notre Dame de Bon Secours

The main altar Notre Dame de Bon Secours

    Marguerite Bourgeoy (1620-1700) traveled alone with no friends across the Atlantic in 1643 and set up ‘The Sisters of the Congregation.’ The Chapel of Notre Dame de Bon Secours can be visited today in Montreal. Not far from the eye catching Notre Dame, down the bank near the water the little chapel stands along with a nice museum, which covers the history of the neighborhood of her time. This is well worth stopping at, since you can learn about the history of the Catholic faith in Montreal as well as see the excavation site below, and you can see the ruins of the original chapel which burned down. There is also a nice book shop which has some English titles so that you can read up while you are on your trip. I was impressed with the life of Marguerite, her tenacity, dedication and life of hardship would not be easily accepted by most of us in the modern age today. She crossed the Atlantic seven times in her life, giving her life to the community of Montreal. She established the first un-cloistered women’s religious order in Montreal which focused on teaching and feeding the poor as well providing a haven for pilgrims who sought refuge while traveling along the river. Notre Dame De Bon Secours was to become one of the earliest sites of pilgrimage in North America. At first the settlers worshipped in a wooden chapel inside the fort nearby, but in 1657 construction of the first stone chapel was underway inspired by her love for the community. She wrote, “I urged the few people who were here at the time to gather stone. I used to do sewing and in payment, I asked for a day’s work. I collected alms to pay for the masons’ work. M. de Maisonneuve had the necessary timber squared. Others prepared the lime, the sand and the boards and soon I had found enough to build it and roof it.” 

    The building of the chapel did not go on without its challenges, and the chapel site was postponed and eventually moved. A wooden structure was built just “400 paces” from the original site which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. It would not be until 1675 that a cross would be planted after a wonderful procession to build a permanent chapel, and the permission came by the Vicar General of the beloved bishop Francois De Laval, whom I will get to later in this series. Marguerite’s new type of women’s religious was founded upon the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The community grew and Marguerite’s order began a solid teaching program, and care for the poor. In fact, before she even came over to New France, she spent thirteen years working among the poor in her hometown of Troyes in France. The site of Bon Secours became a famous site for sailors and the working class people of Montreal. In 1754 the chapel burned down but construction for the new chapel started in 1771 and completed in 1773. I highly recommend seeing this if you happen to make a trip to Montreal.

The ceiling of the Notre Dame de Bon Secours.

    There are several other churches in Montreal worth visiting, which are all within walking distance if you stay near downtown. The Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde is located right in the heart of downtown, and it is a scale replica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Not far from there is Saint Patrick’s Basilica, which is a gothic Irish church in Montreal. Of course, no trip to Montreal would be complete without seeing the stunning Notre Dame Basilica. It is truly an amazing site to behold. I have been to Italy twice, and this church ranks up with the many I saw there. You can see all four of these churches in a day if you get an early start. Saint Joseph's Oratory is also located in Montreal a bit further out from the city center, and I will cover that in my next post. There was also one other church in Montreal which is now closed and used as a concert hall that I wanted to see. It is almost directly across from Saint Patrick's. It is the Jesuit church and once college, called the Gesu. The disuse and sacrilege of this beautiful church goes along with the horrible decline of Catholicism in Quebec after the quiet revolution of 1965. The horrible destruction of the Catholic faith can be seen across Quebec by all of the closed churches, including some that are slated to be torn down! Paraphrasing the words of a local women I met who grew up and went to school at the Ursuline convent in Trois Rivieres, “Everything changed in Quebec after Vatican II. No one practices the faith anymore.” I will elaborate on this more in my next post which covers my visit to Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal.

The view from the top of Notre Dame de Bon Secours.

Notre Dame Basilica Montreal
Main altar of the Basilica of Notre Dame de Montreal
The stunning crucifixion depiction in the main altar Basilica Notre Dame de Montreal
The Saints to the right of the main altar.
Saint Patrick's Basilica Montreal
Saint Patrick's Basilica Montreal
Beautiful paintings of the Saints surround the inside of St. Patricks
Another view of the interior of St Particks Basilica Montreal
The outside of the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde downtown Montreal
Its not Saint Peter's, but its as close as you will get this side of the Atlantic! Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde
The baldacchino of Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, a replica of St. Peter's made in Rome.