I was recently on a pilgrimage to France tracing the roots of the Holy Cross Congregation including the sisters, brothers, and priests. Going to France, especially Paris, has always been a bucket-list pilgrimage for me, so this was a welcome experience.
There were, of course, the major sites to see – Notre Dame, Chartres, the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, as well as many significant cultural sites and great food I was looking forward to experiencing as well. One of my favorite stops was St. Eustache, a magnificently beautiful church that towers over nearby buildings but has no crowds whatsoever compared to the lengthy lines just to get inside Notre Dame.
One of the main figures of Holy Cross is Blessed Basil Moreau, who was responsible for founding the three branches of Holy Cross. Much of his life was spent in northwest France including much time in Le Mans, where his tomb and shrine are located at Holy Cross Church. On one of the early days of the pilgrimage we gathered around his tomb to celebrate Mass together.
The Mass was bi-lingual in French and in English, but in reality went far beyond that. You see, Moreau was passionate about education and a missionary spirit of spreading the Gospel message to the world. Today, Holy Cross is very much a reflection of that, especially in our pilgrimage group. Bangladesh, Brazil, Vietnam, Canada, Haiti, Peru, Chile, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, India, Ghana, and the United States were all represented through pilgrims’ homes or where they’ve been sent in their vocation. In that Mass at Moreau’s tomb we were one Church, one family in Christ.
This pilgrimage was more than what I imagined. It was more than just a chance to see Paris and the sites of Blessed Basil Moreau’s life. This was an encounter with the Church Universal, truly Catholic and catholic. There was a beautiful panoply of backgrounds, languages, customs woven together as the group progressed through the pilgrimage. Something about this collection of people from around the world and of varied backgrounds made the life and vision of Moreau more vivid as we pilgrims – a living witness to his mission – stepped out on a pilgrimage to find an encounter not just with the sacred past, but the living present of the worldwide Catholic Church.