It has been a hard two years. The oppressiveness of the pandemic has managed to deepen the darkness that threatens to engulf the whole world. People are anxious about the future and are burdened by social problems and personal problems.
The restriction on gatherings for weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations and the celebration of the Mass has made life difficult indeed. The periodic closing of churches, combined with the fear of contracting COVID, has become a serious problem and is reaching into the life of faith.
Already affected by a decade’s long drastic decline in church attendance, it has been revealed that as many as 70% of practicing Christians have not attended church during the pandemic. It would seem that the darkness is truly closing in on us. Yet, where there is faith, the light still breaks through.
Thank God for Our Lady’s Sanctuary on Rigaud Mountain! What a blessing that the Sanctuary was open last season. After much difficult and prayerful reflection, the Clerics of St. Viateur, guided by great prudence and caution, opened Our Lady’s Sanctuary in 2021 to receive pilgrims.
It should be recognized that the Sanctuary was able to function as near to normal as possible because of the extraordinary efforts of the Clerics of St. Viateur. We must appreciate that these men in their 80s ministered with the vitality and endurance of men half their age.
They spent long days welcoming, ministering to and blessing the thousands of pilgrims who came to Our Lady’s Sanctuary in 2021. It should also be noted that lay people came forward to volunteer their time and effort in the gift shop, on the grounds and with the liturgy, because in many ways the Sanctuary is short-staffed.
The opening of Our Lady’s Sanctuary in 2021 was a light piercing the darkness, an immense grace lavished on us by Our Lord in a time made more difficult because of the risks and dangers we face. In spite of the pandemic or perhaps because of it, many thousands of pilgrims and tourists flocked to the Sanctuary all summer long.
It was a shorter yet an exceedingly busy season. Being an outdoor shrine, the Sanctuary allowed a large number of masked people to visit without the ever-present burden and worry associated with the pandemic.
Pilgrims experienced a peace, a reassurance and a strengthened hope during their visit to the Sanctuary. Our Lady caresses us with the love of a mother for her Son and all her children.
Such is the nature of Love; it is beautiful, it is good and it overflows and gives life and people are drawn to life.
Our Lady’s Sanctuary on Rigaud Mountain is a special place, where special things happen. Families feel welcome and graces flow in abundance. What happens at Our Lady’s Sanctuary doesn’t stay at Our Lady’s Sanctuary and as word spread, week by week, the number of pilgrims grew in astonishing numbers.
Allow us to share with you a story of a priest who visited Our Lady’s Sanctuary this past season. He is well known and his responsibilities take him to a large number of parishes. He lamented the fact that many had left the faith, since most of the churches he visited were half empty and others had only a smattering of the faithful. Having witnessed this decline for several years, he began to feel the situation was hopeless and it truly saddened him. One Sunday he came to Our Lady’s Sanctuary to concelebrate. As he approached the grounds, he could not believe what he saw.
The picnic area at the bottom of the hill was full with many families and children. Going up the hill, he drove past car after car parked on both sides of the road, past crowds of people walking up the hill and past more crowds of families and pilgrims making their way to the chapels at the Sanctuary, others waiting patiently to pray to Our Lady at the grotto and many more going to and fro on the Sanctuary paths and grounds. It took him a while to find a parking space!
During Mass, he was elated and filled with emotion because of the hundreds and hundreds of faithful before him waiting to receive Holy Communion. He was astonished and could hardly believe what he saw. It was more years than he could remember since he had seen so many people attending Sunday Mass. It was a spectacular sight and one he had not expected. The Sanctuary was alive with the vitality of the faith. Seeing such a vibrant life of faith expressed by an immense gathering of the faithful gave him a taste of the joy of Church.
He said that being at Our Lady’s Sanctuary that Sunday did wonders for his own faith. It was almost as if his faith was reborn and that marvelous experience strengthened his hope for the future of the Church. We do not doubt that in his future travels to parishes around the country, this priest will share what he experienced because, the abundance of graces that are manifest at Our Lady’s Sanctuary cannot be contained. Our Lady’s immense love for us radiates and flows outwards, inviting and welcoming souls to experience the peace and tranquility that comes only from the Divine.
On January 1st Pope Francis said “Let us begin the new year by entrusting it to Mary, the Mother of God. Let us place ourselves under the protection of the Mother of God, who is also our mother. May she help us to keep and ponder all things, unafraid of trials and with the joyful certainty that the Lord is faithful and can transform every cross into a resurrection.”
As we look with joyful hope to another wonderful season under the motherly gaze of Our Lady of Lourdes, we give thanks and pray for all those who volunteer and those who have come and will continue to come to be welcomed by Our Lady of Lourdes.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee and may the light of grace that radiates from Our Lady of Lourdes Sanctuary shine in all our lives.
Voix du sanctuaire 2022 (PDF).