Sunday, July 26, 2009

Holy Cross Pilgrimage: Hoban High School's Montreal Trip 2009

After driving just about the half the distance and staying over night in Toronto, the Hoban kids, Mandi (Hoban math teacher), and I arrived in Montreal last Monday around 5:00 p.m. After a quick dinner in the College Jean de Brebeauf's cafeteria, we made what would be our first of many trips over to St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount-Royal for evening prayer. Our hosts- Brother Jonathan Beebe, CSC and Brother Mark Knightly, CSC- spent a considerable amount of time explaining to our kids the difference between being a tourist and being a pilgrim. Unlike touring a big city (like Montreal) and window shopping and sight-seeing various attractions and historical buildings and monuments, a pilgrimage is truly a spiritual journey...a journey that leads us to several churches to seek and encounter God. It's a time of change and transformation in an effort to live out the Gospel more deeply in our lives. Truthfully, I think all of us- including Mandi and I- embraced this message whole-heartedly the first time that we arrived to the summit of St. Joseph's Oratory and peered out over the entire city of Montreal...words cannot describe the scene from the Oratory's terrace...

The second day included a detailed tour of the Oratory as well as an education on the man who is credited with the construction of this magnificent building, Brother Andre Bessette. Earning the reputation of a miracle worker, I read in some of the literature that this man vehemently protested such a title and proclaimed that "people are silly to think that I can accomplish miracles! It is God who can heal you, not I. However, we were told on the tour that he is currently at the stage of beatification and is currently awaiting the next step- sainthood- which can only be bestowed on a man by the Papacy.

While at the Oratory, we all were able to see not only the tomb of Brother Andre, but also the oratory museum, which contained a collections of nativities made from various countries all over the world...spectacular! Later in the evening, we all headed back to this same spot to witness a dramatization of the stations of the cross...presented in the Oratory's outside gardens. Again, just an incredibly beautiful- albeit contemporary- reenactment of Christ's final days here on earth.

Wednesday was set aside for the whole gang to make the trek downtown- using the subway system of course- and tour Montreal's other basilicas: Mary Queen of the World (modeled after St. Peter's in Rome), St. Patrick's, and Notre Dame de Montreal. Even though it made for an extremely long day to tour all three of these, it was very cool to see them all in compare the styles and ornamentation found in each one...and believe me, each one was extremely different. Hands down, my favorite was the Notre Dame Basilica. Check these three out on-line sometime to see the magnificence found in their structure and interior artwork...simply least for this mediocre blog writer.

Following some impromptu witness talks by all the adult chaperons on the trip, the afternoon allowed us to re-visit the downtown area of Montreal and do some of the touristy things in the city. Twenty years from now if I come back and re-read this posting...I would be remiss to not document our journey to St. Catherine's St. Let's just say that this is a rather lively and eclectic part of the downtown area that thrives on adult entertainment. Needless to say, we made a rather quick U-turn from this location after we realized that we had kind of made a wrong turn on the tour.

It had been a number of years since I had chaperoned a lengthy trip with students. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but our kids were phenomenal. They played and laughed hard, but they equally prayed hard- with earnest- during all of our prayer services and masses that we attended together as a group. I think the one moment that I'll remember most is watching our kids "pray the steps" at the Oratory. Beginning at the bottom and working their way up the hillside- on their knees on stone pavement- their prayer journey took them over an truly was a moving experience to see a bunch of teenagers- huddled together in prayer- make the ascent to the top of the Oratory. So cool.

On a much lighter note, we shared so many laughs together as we played Euchre each night through the wee hours of the morning...not to mention the car rides there and back from Montreal. The kids transformed my music tendencies a bit by getting me hooked on their Hip-Hop music...some catchy tunes were sung loud and strong while rollin' down the Canadian highways. Again, thanks to Mandi, Josh, Chris, Emily, Katie, Anna, Sammi, Paul, and Nettie for a wonderful trip...

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