Thursday, September 21, 2006

Penitential Pilgrimage 2006 Flatrock

On Saturday September 9, 2006, I participated in the second historic penitential pilgrimage to the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Flatrock, Newfoundland. One of the stated goals of this pilgrimage is “…giving God a chance to break through to us amid the distractions of daily life.”

As I reported in my previous post, September 2005 was the first such visionary pilgrimage.

Approximately 60 pilgrims joined in the four kilometre procession but nearly 100 souls were in attendance at the 4PM Mass. This represented a wonderful increase in attendance of about 50%, and, through eyes of faith, we pilgrims believe that it represents a similar fruitfulness in the spiritual realm.

Once again, the procession included three stages and stops, each of which was characterized by song and prayer. The last kilometer of the procession was completed in silence.

Upon arrival at the Grotto, pilgrims enjoyed a half hour or so of refreshments and fellowship at the parish hall followed by about an hour of quiet time at the Grotto. There was sufficient time to pray, to complete the Stations of the Cross and then to move into the Church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At 4PM Mass was celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop William Aquin Carew, followed by Benediction.

Although pilgrims sought to inwardly observe the serious spiritual demands of the day, all appeared enthusiastic and happy throughout the pilgrimage.

Weather was generally overcast and breezy but reasonably warm, with a couple very slight sprinklings during the course of the walk.

Quoting from the pilgrimage website, I bring the following to the reader’s attention:

A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place, undertaken for the purpose of worship, thanksgiving, petition or penance.

Because being 'penitent' is an absolute requirement if we wish our sins to be forgiven, so that we might restore ('reconcile') our relationship with God, our Creator, our loving Father whom we have offended by our sins. And to be 'penitent' requires the virtue of Humility ... the antidote to the cardinal sin of Pride.

That restoration or reconciliation requires a correct understanding of the relationship: He is the Creator, we are the creatures (the word 'reconciliation' is, in some ways, unfortunate, because it may suggest a relationship between equals).

One pre-requisite for the forgiveness of our sins is that we should have a genuine sense of sorrow (contrition) for those sins, a firm intention to amend our lives and avoid sin in the future ... and a willingness to do the penance necessary, as a matter of Justice, to restore our relationship with God our Father. It is spiritually healthy to cultivate such a sense of contrition ... it leads to a positive desire to DO penance, so that we can be 'reconciled' with the Father whom we have offended.

If our great country of Canada is to experience the forgiveness of God for it’s great sacrileges and to receive the subsequent spiritual healing, a series of sweeping spiritual exercises akin to those that accompany this pilgrimage must take place throughout Canada.

The grace of God permitting, let affliction of spirit, penance, and supplication begin here in Newfoundland!

“Then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”

A photo gallery of this year’s event can be viewed here.

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