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A sacred start to the Year of Faith
Pilgrims entrust their journey to the Sacred Heart
PARIS — Ascending Montmartre is an awe-inspiring journey, as you wind your way up the stairs along the steep hillside or ride the glass-walled elevator on the side of Montmartre. It's a steep climb, but one that bears panoramic and spiritual gifts, as the views and the Basilica of Sacre Coeur at the top are stunning.
The pilgrims from the Diocese of Charlotte found that out for themselves today on this inaugural day of the Year of Faith.
The excitement and anticipation was on their faces as they climbed the steps and entered the basilica, right into the Heart of Jesus.
They were greeted by the towering mosaic of the Sacred Heart as they made their way to the crypt - to the Chapel of the Holy Family - where they would receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ to begin their journey during this newly proclaimed Year of Faith.
Father Timothy Reid, pastor of St. Ann Church in Charlotte, celebrated the Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Family and noted God's providence in the pilgrims being in the "Heart of Jesus" on this beginning of the Year of Faith.
"Today as most of you know is the beginning of the Year of Faith that our Holy Father Benedict XVI inaugurated to increase devotion of Catholics throughout the world, to remind us to devote ourselves to this very special virtue of faith along with hope and charity which we received at our baptisms," he said.
He pointed out the significance of the fact that the basilica has had perpetual Adoration for the past 120 years and has stood the test of time despite conflicts and wars since its construction as a sign of French resistance and a testament of faith.
Jack Staub, who is in formation in the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Charlotte, was moved by the homily and has just recently come to know about the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
"I just started within the last few years to have a devotion," he said. I have been to Mass on First Friday a couple of times. That is something new to me...a wonderful treasure of our faith."
He has enjoyed seeing in the religious sites how our faith gets transported by the Holy Spirit through ordinary people.
"It was a beautiful place to be, what providence of God to be in the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the beginning of the Year of Faith," said Linda Mooney. We have to imagine that God has something special in store for us and anyone we can help bring along in the faith."
Mooney, who is on pilgrimage with her husband, Vincent, and their daughters Grace and Mary Katherine, is a catechist at their home parish of St. Michael the Archangel in Gastonia. She is training to be a Marian catechist and looks forward to bringing what she learns from the pilgrimage back to her students at her parish.
Jason Beckert, whose sons Andrew and David have been altar servers at the daily Mass celebrated on the Marian pilgrimage, is experiencing a beautiful beginning to his personal faith journey
"It's all overwhelming... It's very inspiring!" he said. "I think like Father (Reid) said, so many of these graces will be impactful, not just during these 11 days, but hopefully throughout the whole Year of Faith."
After Mass, the pilgrims also had an opportunity to explore more of the city, first by bus and then later on their own or in smaller groups. Some opted to go to other churches dedicated to Our Lady and the saints, others struck out for museums, art galleries, gardens and eateries.
For those who visited the Madeleine, where St. Mary Magdalene is honored, and Our Lady of Victories Church, dedicated to the Blessed Mother, the afternoon was an extension of the morning's Mass and a time of prayer to enter more fully into the Heart of God on their Year of Faith journey.
And as they leave Paris and travel throughout France on this journey, they have the words that Father Reid spoke to them in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, "This Year of Faith is our opportunity to give our hearts to the Lord. Let's pray to truly be strengthened in faith."
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
Join in the Journey in Faith: A Marian Pilgrimage to France
Come along with us on this virtual pilgrimage to France as we journey "to Jesus through Mary."
See more photos, learn about the people and places of the Church in France and the devotions they inspired and see the journey through the pilgrims' eyes: http://triptofrance.tumblr.com/
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