You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘pilgrimage’ tag.
With about 2,500 young Catholics, the German delegation to the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, in July of this year, is decidedly smaller than before. In comparison, some 16,500 young German Catholics attended the Madrid edition in 2011 and about 6,000 travelled all the way to Sydney in 2008. Why such a small group this time around? It’s not the distance or the cost, as Sydney was both further away and hence more expensive. No, in this case it is the German bishops who are discouraging underage Catholics from participating in the festivities, Vatican Insider reports.
Citing both travel costs and concerns about the pilgrims’ safety, the Bishop Conference’s religious education coordinator Markus Hartmann explains that the priests and coordinators accompanying the pilgrims will be ultimately responsible for their safety and that, it would seem, is a risk, or responsibility, they are not willing to take.
In a way, this reflects the added risk that Rio presents. Crime rates are admittedly higher than in, say, Sydney or Cologne, which hosted the event in 2005. On the other hand, it seems a bit odd that the bishops refuse the added responsibility: at other Church events, in or outside Germany, they are still responsible for those under their care, and pilgrims, young or old, can also be injured, fall ill, or even die in other places than Rio de Janeiro. There is always a risk.
It is sad that the bishops of Germany have chosen for this option, instead of relying on security measures that exist in Brazil, or impressing upon the pilgrims the need for extra safety precautions. After the World Youth Day, Rio de Janeiro will host both the Summer Olympics and the Football World Cup, so Brazil has much to loose if there is a security failure of any sort next July.
No April Fool’s joke, the announcement made by Father Leendert Spijkers on Easter Sunday: granted by Pope Benedict XVI back in February, the 15th century church of St. Peter in Oirschot, Diocese of ’s Hertogenbosch is to be elevated to the status of basilica minor. Bishop Antoon Hurkmans will make the official declaration some time in the summer, making it his diocese’s fourth basilica.
The church of St. Peter in Oirschot dates from 1515, replacing its predecessor which had burned down in 1462. From 1648 to 1799 the church was Protestant, and it wasn’t until 1904 that the local parish regained full ownership of church and tower. In the war, the tower was severely damaged from Allied gunfire, and it took until 1952 for restorations to be completed. The church is one of the largest remaining Gothic village churches in the province of North Brabant. The furnishings are partly original and partly taken from demolished churches with the altars dating from around 1700 and 1766 respectively. The church has been a national monument since 1966.
Age and a certain esthetic value are but two elements which can make a church a basilica. Another, and certainly not the least important, is the presence of a certain devotion within an active parish community. In the case of St. Peter’s, that devotion is to the ‘Holy Oak’.
The story goes that, some time in the early 15th century, two shepherds found a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the banks of the Beerze stream. They placed it an oak, but inhabitants of nearby Middelbeers took the statue and put it in their church. The next morning, though, the statue was back in the oak. Villagers of Oirschot came to venerate the statue, and there were reports of miraculous healings.
A chapel was built on the place of the oak, and an annual procession developed to that spot. Oak and chapel were removed in 1649, but a new chapel (view of the interior pictured) was erected in 1854, on the foundations of the old one. The original statue resides in St. Peter’s, but a replica remains at the chapel. Some 250,000 pilgrims and visitors find their way to Mary of the Holy Oak every year.
Photo credit:  Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,  Parish of St. Peter, Oirschot
Pope Benedict XVI waves to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden during last Wednesday’s audience. Standing next to him is our bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte. About the enthusiasm of the younger pilgrims, who chanted his name and tried to sing for him – were it not for an orchestra that decided to start performing at the same time – the Holy Father said, “They are a bit noisy, aren’t they?” He then blessed them. He also stated that the Netherlands is a nation with friendly Catholics. Well, if the pope says so, we must surely try to be.
Two spiritual fathers, one’s own bishop and the shepherd of the entire Church: too rare not to share.
Photo credit: Marlies Bosch
Today my bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Not something I should let go by unmentioned, so let me take the opportunity to offer my heartfelt congratulations and prayerful wish for many blessed years to come.
Bishop de Korte will mark the occasion with a Mass in the cathedral of St. Joseph, with Cardinal Simonis and several other bishops attending. Afterwards, Cardinal Simonis, who is something of a spiritual father to Bishop de Korte - he was ordained by him to deacon, priest and bishop – will receive the first copy of a collection of the bishop’s writings on four general themes: the future of the Church and Christianity in general in our country, Catholic spirituality, the place of the Church in society and the liturgy.
In October, the bishop will also be leading a pilgrimage to Rome for the faithful in his diocese.
Being a bishop is a hard and often thankless life. Keep your bishop in your prayers, support him however you can in his work as successor of the Apostles, so that he in turn may strengthen you in your faith.
As Brother Hugo rather passionately suggested on his Twitter, May is a good time to find your nearest shrine and go on a pilgrimage. Now he happens to take care of a shrine himself, the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, and that is where I will be pilgrimaging to tomorrw. Well, me and several dozen others, for two kilometers, following Mass in the parish church of nearby Wehe-den Hoorn. The photo above is an impression from last year’s pilgrimage and as you can tell, there is a lovely traditional element to it in the banners, crosses and, since last year, a shrine with relics of St. Gerlac. In the fairly short space of a few years, this annual pilgrimage has developed into a fixture of the tiny village and surrounding countryside, and an oasis of, there we go again, affirmative orthodoxy. It is all thoroughly Catholic, but with a veneer of northern groundedness and humour – an essentially Catholic attitude to life, although people in these parts are usually not in for such exuberance. But if it’s there, it’s there: no use in denying nothing happens.
With the first half of the ongoing apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba virtually behind us, it is time to take a look at some of the things that Pope Benedict XVI said to the faithful of Mexico, Latin America and the entire world, as the Church and the faith she teaches is never limited to geographical borders. Later today, the Holy Father will arrive in Cuba, and once that visit is wrapped up on Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the speeches and homilies given on the largest Caribbean island.
Pilgrim of faith, hope and love
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity” [Welcoming ceremony, Guanajuato, 23 March].
“Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life” [idem].
An instrument of good
“The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations” [Meeting with young people, Guanajuato, 24 March].
A new heart
“The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ” [Homily at Expo Bicenternario Park, Léon, 25 March].
Devotion to Mary
“Dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67). To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb” [Angelus, Léon, 25 March].
“Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that … There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need” [Vespers, Léon, 25 March].
 Reuters/Claudia Daut
 Reuters/Osservatore Romano
 Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
 Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
 Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
Last weekend I took part in the first event by the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed aimed at young adults: the Night of Mary. We gathered in the small hamlet of Warfhuizen, home of the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, for shared lunch and dinner, companionship, an introduction by hermit Brother Hugo on the topic of night, an afternoon walk through the Groninger countryside (below) to stretch the limbs and an evening candlelit procession to Our Lady at the shrine.
About a dozen young people came to spend the afternoon and take part in the procession, which was also open to adult pilgrims. We processed under a starlit sky, around the village cemetery and a field behind it (the only option in the village to walk a circle, unless we took a 15-kilometer detour in order to cross the canal), followed by a couple of very curious horses which managed to disrupt the prayer of Deacon Patrick, Brother Hugo and seminarian Sander leading the procession (the three fell into helpless laughter after a horse nuzzled the back of the deacon’s neck… a bit of a shocker in the dark!). At the shrine, we had exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a lot of personal prayer intentions. These intentions are not new at Holy Hour at the shrine, but the sheer number of them was.
For something of an impression, Ingrid created this short film:
There are some photos available at the website of the shrine, here.
Photo credit: Mercèdès Terlaak
I am finding it really hard to condense my thoughts, memories and feelings about the World Youth Days into a coherent blog post. Maybe it’s still too early to do so. I’ve only been home for less than three days, after all. I can say one thing, though, the experience sticks. Looking back at my and other’s photos and reading their thoughts in blog posts and tweets, the WYD mood is still with me. My attitude to the daily things is different. I am certain that feeling will wane as time progresses, but for now I treasure it.
There are many things that contribute to that feeling, which is ever so hard to put into words. There’s the company of fellow young Catholics and a bunch of priests in two buses on the long road to Zaragoza and later Madrid, buses in which the atmosphere and camaraderie was just fantastic. On the road through Belgium, France, around the Pyrenees and into Spain, this laid the groundwork for a group of almost 100 pilgrims who were there for each other and with each other. Another aspect was the accommodation, primitive as it may have been. We slept in sports centres, first with a group of some 60 pilgrims from Italy, later with almost all Dutch pilgrims (some 1,000, I would estimate). Comfortable it was not, sanitary facilities were mediocre at best, breakfast was laughable, but still… we were in it together, not for our individual selves, but for each other, for the Church, for Christ. There was the fatigue, with nights of, at most, five hours of sleep, and days filled with city tours, catechesis, Mass and cultural activities. There were also the physical discomfort, the injuries of foot and leg that a fair number of pilgrims suffered (myself included).
And then… there were the massive gatherings of people for the closing Mass in Zaragoza, the arrival of the pope, the beautiful Via Crucis and the closing Mass in Madrid. The latter especially, with the vigil, the storm, the baking heat and the distant pope, will indeed remain in my memory as he high point of the World Youth Days. We relied on each other, carrying only the things we could carry in our back pack, while we staked out our own ‘Camp Holland’ in section E8 on the Cuatro Vientos airbase. Temperatures soared to the high 30s, the Madrid fire department worked all day to keep people cool (and they deserve every commendation for their work), and then, as the Holy Father joined us, we were united in the downpour.
In the end, after the Mass the next morning, we smelled, we were tired, and all we could think of was cooling off in the pool around the corner, but we were blessed. Truly blessed. Sometimes it takes a while to notice this, but I firmly believe that the experience – all two weeks – changed us. And that belief, that faith, is what I want to keep as ‘normal life’ starts again.
You notice that it is hard to put into words how my pilgrimage has been, and that is something I keep noticing especially when talking about it with family and friends who stayed at home. Of course, they have seen the news items on TV and Internet, seen the photos and heard the stories, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. A pilgrimage is more than a string of events. It is, so to speak, a full experience of body and mind, and that doesn’t translate well into words. It needs to be experienced to be understood. I’ve certainly learned that: the stories of friends who went to the World Youth Days in Sydney and Cologne do not compare to the real thing. And in that sense I was not prepared for what I got myself into. But sometimes it’s good not to be too prepared…
And now? I will continue to remember the past two weeks fondly and with gratitude, cultivate the friendships that were created and maintain the new vigour in my faith life. More practically, I’ll be reading what Pope Benedict XVI actually had to say to us; since I don’t speak Spanish, I couldn’t follow his homilies and addresses as they happened. I’ll be sharing the important sound bytes soon.
In closing I want to share some of the more than 300 photos I shot over the course of the Days in the Diocese and the actual World Youth Days. There are many more, by me and m fellow pilgrims as well as countless professional media outlets, but these will give you the smallest of impressions of what it was like.