400th Anniversary Pilgrimage




400th Anniversary Pilgrimage

Friday Jul 3, 2009

As we arrived in Annecy, the Basilica stands out over the whole town.

Both Friday and Saturday, Jul 4th, were as one day. We visited all the Churches associated with St. Francis de Sales amid this most beautiful and quaint city of Annecy. Saturday started off with Sr Mary Grace toppling in the bus, getting a great gash on her leg which needed stitches. We were on our way up to the Monastery in Annecy where we were to celebrate Mass with our Sisters there. We did go, and also said morning prayer with them, saw the Basilica, reverenced the tombs of Holy Father and Holy Mother, signed the very vow book St Jane de Chantal did. We’re on page 2760. We then went to the gift shop and museum and on to Gallery house to be in and view our foundational community.

The afternoon was free. Sr. Gail Trinite and Sr Susan Marie sat in the park near the Lake of Annecy, observed the local population and were approached by a young woman standing within a box who is preparing for marriage. She asked our wisdom about marriage. We got a little lost in Annecy; a French sculptress gave us directions, among others, back to our Hotel. We had some delicious ice cream! Sr Susan Marie got trapped in a public Toilette when the handle wouldn’t budge, but eventually got out. Across from the Hotel was a Chapel of St Francis de Sales and we met a Frenchwoman who was praying for her son who is away from the faith.

In the evening the pilgrim group took a boat ride on the Lake of Annecy, viewing the majestic Alps and key historic sites and castles.

Sunday July 5, 2009

In the morning we headed out for Thorens Castle, home of the De Sales family, complete with drawbridge and dried up moat and greeted by a friendly bulldog. The castle had a dungeon which we entered and on the floor above various paintings, including one of St Francis de Sales with an old face, one rarely seen. We went to the Church in Thorens where he was baptized and ordained and attended a very moving Liturgy. Three children were baptized during it. Sr Mada Anne did the first reading in English and Srs. Anne Marguerite and Roberta sang the responsorial psalm. Some French boy scouts also attended Mass as they were going on a camping trip in the Alps.

We had lunch in the rectory of this parish, which we had brought along with us. Afterwards we walked a path up to the cross where St Francis de Sales had his inspiration for the Visitation, with the Alps towering above. Driving on to Les Allinges, where he converted the Calvinists, we heard the story from an elderly Missionary of St Francis de Sales. Also a magnificent view from this site, which also took energy as it lay uphill.

Our next stop was Marclaz, the Visitation Monastery set aside for the elderly Sisters. We were greeted by Sr Anne Marie Augustiniak and the Superior and ushered in to the Assembly Room where the entire community greeted us. After some snacks and conversation, we went to the chapel to see the tomb of Mary Mary Chambon and the special crucifix.

Upon our return to the hotel, were were greeted by our British Visitation Sisters joining us for the pilgrimage, with whom we had dinner.

Monday Jul 6 2009

A day of travel and unexpected, powerful graces. We bid farewell to Annecy at 7:30AM and set out for Taize, St. Margaret Mary’s home of birth, and Paray le Monial. Along the way we had the privilege of following the inspiration of Fr. Jim, who wanted to go to Ars, apparently along the route. The Church of Ars had a peaceful Presence of the Lord and no doubt we each prayed for many priests in this Year of the Priest. We also viewed the Cure of Ars remains, his home, Chapel, and the burnt bed.

On to Taize, crowds of youth, gathered in conversational squares. We attended a prayer service with crowds of the young people and many white robed monks in the Church there and had lunch also, corn and rice primarily. Unfortunately, one of our pilgrims, Rachel, was left behind at Taize and we did not realize it until we arrived at St Margaret Mary’s ancestral home. With cell phone calls we made contact and a young man eventually drove her to Paray in the evening when we met up with her.

At St Margaret Mary’s home, we saw the living quarters and a DVD on her life and also went to the room in which she was born, now a chapel, where we wrote prayer intentions in a book. Our next stop was the Chapel at Paray le Monial where we attended 6PM Mass and then reverenced the relics of St Margaret Mary, whether wax or incorrupt I’m unsure, but very powerful. There’s a joyful spirit at Paray yet also deep seriousness. They have 4 in formation and a delightful Irish born nun gave us the tour of the grounds and sites of apparitions of Our Lord. We also went into the Sisters choir and could view another holy spot of Our Lords appearance. It was a moving place to pray in.

Tuesday Jul 7

In the morning we went back to the Basilica in Paray, majestic but empty except for a small group praying. Then we traveled on to Moulins, where we were greeted royally by Mons. Picaud, curator of the Visitation Museum, and his young assistant who wears our cross as an affiliate. The first exhibit was one of marvelous embroidery, all executed by Visitation Sisters over the centuries. It was beyond magnificent and has an entire book dedicated to it. We proceeded to an underground vault in which precious objects are kept, precious golden monstrances and other valuables. We entered another room filled with exquisitely decorated vestments and additional tapestries and visited an archival section where Mons. Picaud showed us a huge, illustrated book, in Latin, of the Office of the Virgin Mary and a tiny Treatise on the Love of God. While looking at vestments in even another room, the Bishop of Moulins, Pascal Roland, entered and in a few minutes we proceeded to the town hall to be welcome by Moulins City officials, greeting us with speeches and an elaborate dinner. Currently, city finances support the Museum, which is unusual for France. The curator begs the U.S. to contribute some of our items for the Museum.

After photos, we left Moulins and went on to Monthelon, where we visited St Jane de Chantal’s father-in-law’s castle, currently privately owned. The couple who lives there showed us the Chapel and prepared refreshments for us. Then on to the Hotel and dinner.

July 8, 2009

We left for Bourbilly at 8:30AM, a late morning for this pilgrimage! What a majestic castle and property! We were ushered into the Chapel of the Castle by Baron Crepy and his wife, who have inherited this treasure. This Chapel is the one in which St. Jane de Chantal was married and where she worshipped. It is somewhat unkempt, with bat droppings and squeaks emanating from the rafters, but that did not prevent a sense of awe in realizing we were to attend Mass in the very chapel that St Jane was in every day of her 9 year residence at Bourbilly.

Sr. Gail Trinite dusted all the wooden plank benches and Fr John and Fr Jim concelebrated Mass. Afterwards Baron Crepy talked to us there for a long time. He is an engineer, artist and musician and painted portraits of all the men and women who in any way were involved with this castle, placing the paintings all around the Chapel walls. He shared with us the history of St. Jane, of the Chapel, of his own involvement, of his artistic work. He is about 80 and married his wife in 1952. Just about that time, the Chapel roof caught fire, and a lot burned. Baron Crepy felt the castle “lost its soul” without a Chapel, so he had the roof re-constructed in a shape that resembled hands at prayer.

In addition to the portraits he painted a “dance Macabre” higher up on the walls, with family members depicted, to encourage his children to come into the Chapel. He also showed us a sculpture of St Jane de Chantal, with children, that he made, and a new wooden altar he had constructed, taller than a normal altar so that it would not be used for anything secular, but only sacred worship. Each leg of the altar is made of a different type of wood, representing each of the apostles; the center one of stone, for St. Peter. The leg representing Judas is empty, but its place is there. He wanted to portray this emptiness. A very profound and spiritual man, this Baron de Crepy.

Afterward we had a short tour of the Castle and then went out to the mill where St Jane had her vision of St Francis.

Then the bus moved us on to Troyes. When we arrived there was no electricity in the hotel and we had to carry our luggage up four flights. Dinner followed later.

July 9, 2009

We began the day in Troyes walking to our Visitation Monastery from the hotel. It is situated on the main boulevard in town but behind a gate and wall that affords much privacy and enclosure. We entered the dimly lit chapel, typical for France, and Fr John and Fr Jim celebrated Mass, in English, with a Sister behind the grille repeating the readings in French, even the Gospel. It was a powerful liturgy and unique. Firstly, the community has retained only the high altar and it is apparent that the priest must usually say mass in the former way with his back to the people. Fr. John was privileged to wear a richly brocaded vestment that St Francis de Sales himself wore, and this moved him deeply. The chalice he used was one used by Fr. Brisson. When it came time for the Eucharistic prayer and consecration, Fr John also faced the high altar and the experience of this was tangibly different for Sr Susan Marie.

After this deep, profound Liturgy, we had a tour of the Chapel, with a unique stained glass window of St John the Baptist and family visiting the Holy Family, and a Visitation scene over the altar painted by a local Troyes artist. Troyes is the 45th foundation of the Visitation Order.

All the Sister lined up to greet us, then took us to the shrine where Mother Chappuis was buried and the room in which she died. This room has a spot on the floor which is marked with a plaque where Jesus Himself appeared to her while she was praying for the future of the community. Jesus said to her, “I am with you”. Sr Susan Marie also prayed here for our future.

We walked to the parlor where Fr Brisson had his apparition of Our Lord as well.

The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales are only a block away and their property touches the Visitation’s property. It’s a modern building, 1960’s, and an Oblate Sister showed us around. We viewed many encased objects of St. Leonie Aviat and Fr. Brisson, their chapel, a very fine museum and an additional chapel with his extraordinary clock.

The afternoon was free, so Sr. Susan Marie, Sr. Ann Marguerite, Sr Gail Trinite and Sr Catherine Mullin went to the medieval section of Troyes, ate at an open air café and visited another art museum.

In the evening the bus took us to Plancy, where Fr. Brisson both was born and also died. A delightful Oblate Sister, Sr. Anne Hildegard, brought us to the room in which he died and included in her talk historical tidbits about the Marechal of France and World War 11. The remembrance of the war is very manifest in France. We proceeded to the ancient Chapel where Fr. Brisson worshipped as a boy, and Sr pointed out row 4 where at 8 years old he had an inspiration that he would do something for youth. We also saw the relic of St. Victor, hermit.


July 10, 2009

Today we left Troyes for Paris. On arrival at All Seasons Hotel on Rue de Bercy, our rooms were not ready, so we went to a café for lunch. The elevators in the hotel have a security measure in which you must slide your room card into a slot in the elevator in order to make it work.

In the late afternoon we took a lovely cruise on the Seine River, and observed, close up, the Eiffel Tower, and at a distance, the Louvre, Sorbonne, many bridges and famous sections of Paris. We then went to Notre Dame Cathedral for Mass at which Fr Jim concelebrated. Dinner followed.

July 11, 2009

A full day of touring Paris with a new guide, a Parisien named Antonio. We went back to Notre Dame to look around as we has not that opportunity after Mass the day before. Then we traveled to Sainte Chapelle, a magnificent bubble of stained glass, practically from floor to ceiling at a height beyond estimation. This room was reached by treacherous circular stairs. The Chapel was built by a King to house the Crown of Thorns, now in Notre Dame.

Our next stop was St Clothilde, a Chapel important to the Daughters of St Francis de Sales, where Sandy Chamberlain, pilgrim and Daughter, gave a short talk on Fr. Henri Charmont and the foundation of the Daughters. Then we hurried to Montmatre for Mass at the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately we arrived late and joined Mass at the Holy, Holy. This magnificent basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart was built to reconcile France with the Church. It was quite an experience! After departing the bus, we made our way up a cobblestoned street of outdoor markets amid a crowd of international souls that nearly came across as a rabble. At the foot of Montmartre, we had to climb 300 steps to get to the Church; with some rest levels from which, on turning around, one would view an expanding view of Paris at each level.

After Mass we were free to explore. Sr Susan Marie and Diane spent time together and ate lunch. There are many little chapels within the Basilica which we prayed at.

Leaving this basilica we went to visit the Chapel of the Congregation of St Thomas of Villaneuve which houses the Black Madonna, at which St Francis de Sales prayed and was relieved of a temptation. This chapel was clean, orderly, and quite a peaceful contrast to the crowds at Montmartre. The statue of the Virgin is huge and is placed above the center of the altar.

Back to the hotel, brief rest and then Sr Gail Trinite and Sr Susan Marie braved the Paris Metro to go to our Paris Monastery on Denfert-Rochereau. It was 7 or 8 stops on the #6 Green line, from the hotel. We found it and met the Superior, Mother Lucie Chantal, in the parlor and  made arrangements to visit on the 14th.

We had dinner in a fine restaurant that evening.

July 12, 2009

On this Sunday morning we went to Mass at Rue du Bac where St. Catherine Laboure had the apparition of the Blessed Mother and received the Miraculous Medal. The Church was filled with hundreds of people both lower and balcony levels. It was a French liturgy of course and afterwards the crowd reverenced the remains of the saint. Divine Providence stepped in as within the courtyard of the Church who did we meet but Ms. Alicia Beauvisiage who had been to the Brooklyn Monastery and is trying to bring the relics of St Margaret Mary to the US as she had done in South America. She said she never comes to this Church and had a strong feeling to come this day!

We walked over to the Church of St. Vincent de Paul and prayed especially for Sr Mary Vincent and family. There is abeautiful painting of St Vincent observing the orbs of St Francis and St Jane ascending to heaven. St. Vincent’s remains lie high above the main altar and tabernacle and one ascends a circular staircase to reverence them. It was a very powerful moment to see his face and body, whether wax or incorrupt is uncertain.

Robert our bus driver was late but showed up eventually. In the afternoon we had a splendid trip to the Palace of Versailles. On the way we saw the French Statue of Liberty, given by the Americans, which is 16X smaller than the one in NY Harbor, like a little sister to it.

Versailles is truly a palace, unbelievable in its dimensions, elaborateness and workmanship. The gardens with 400 musical fountains, Greek statues, a 2 mile long canal with rowboats, all larger than life. Inside, the hall of mirrors with dozens of chandeliers, golden ceilings, tales of ceremonies for the King’s rising from bed, ceremonies of dining, all of another world, like a legend.

It was a very hot day but we took it all in and left at 6PM and went to dinner.

July 13, 2009

A full day, as we left for Lisieux at 8AM, arriving at 11:15AM for Mass in the Basilica of St. Therese, in the crypt. The upper Church had side altars dedicated to different countries. After lunch we went to the Carmelite Monastery entering the Chapel to reverence the remains of St Therese. Her face was exquisitely beautiful and this moment was encased silently in each heart. We were ushered into the Museum of St Therese where we viewed artifacts such as her schoolbooks, the photographic equipment of the period, and footage of her canonization.

Her childhood home was a few blocks away and is preserved intact. Sr Susan Marie touched the very fireplace where St Therese used to hang her Christmas stockings and where she had a conversion experience as related in the Story of a Soul. We also saw her bedroom and additional momentos as her toy dolls, First Communion dress; an emotional moment in thinking of how a little girl became a saint and doctor of the Church.

We left to go to Caen, about an hour away, to our Viistation Monastery there and where St Therese’s sister, Leonie, was a Visitandine, Sr Francoise Therese. Four older Sisters, including the Superior, greeted us. We were led to the tomb of Leonie, an underground room, simply furnished with a crucifix, altar and chairs. The tomb in the floor was marked and surrounded by flowers and candles and in the upper right a photo of a gentle looking Leonie, with piles of envelopes placed before the photo. Sr Susan Marie left all our intentions in our envelope there, as if in Leonie’s holy hands. The Sisters brought out St Therese’s Profession Cross to reverence and soon we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Paris. Some pilgrims stayed behind to go to Omaha Beach.

July 14, 2009 Bastille day

Today several of us went to visit our two Paris Monasteries, Sr Mary Grace, Sr Susan Marie, Sr Gail Trinite, Fr Jim, Sr Roberta, Sr Catherine, Sr Anne Marguerite, Sr Miriam Rose. We took the Metro.

We had a delightful time in the First Monastery with Mere Lucie Chantal who took all of us in the enclosure except Fr Jim who was asked to visit with their Chaplain.

We saw the choir and their “electric grille”, a special door of St Francis de Sales,rooms with relics, including a rib of St Jane and her Profession Cross, the Sacred heart oratory, their archives, and the crypt with the remains of Archbishop Andre Fremyot and Commander Sillery, and the spacious gardens with beehives. We also were taken to their extensive shop in the basement and above ground, in which the Sisters sell items from every monastery in France, including Trappists, Carmelites etc, with all mapped out. We met their postulant, from Martinique, and we were treated to a fine lunch with the Sisters, sandwiches, wine, chips, cake and ice cream. They also gave us honey, a DVD and a book on St Jane.

One of the Sisters accompanied us on the Auto bus to the 2nd Monastery of Paris, where we spoke with the Sisters in the parlor and had refreshments. Ann Katrine our French guide showed up and helped translate. The Sisters are writing  a book on our Profession Cross. We also went to their chapel and Sister brought out a reliquary of St Margaret Mary.

That evening we had a closing Mass in Notre Dame du Bercy and Fr Perry from St Jeromes in Brooklyn showed up! WE had a fine dinner and took in Bastille night in Paris, passing the Arc of Triomphe and the French flag blowing in the breeze.

July 15, 2009

Up early, goodbyes and off to Charles de Gaulle Airport back to the USA!

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