Wrapping up the Europe pictures! After about 10 days on our own in Rome and Paris, we met up with a pilgrimage group. This pilgrimage group was formed through the organization Paradisus Dei, based out of Houston. Paradisus Dei has lots of different avenues of ministry, but their main branch is a men’s group called “That Man is You.” It’s a great group that Josh participated in through our parish (any parish can start up a TMIY chapter!). It’s a group that seeks to build up the family by helping heal, restore and empower men to be the men that God called them to be – holy men of God. When we heard about the trip, we knew it was right and we signed up right away. We actually decided to do the pilgrimage before tacking on the other 10 days of travel! All of the timing (including that I would be out of the exhausting and nauseating first trimester of my pregnancy!) was perfect and providential.
Traveling on your own and traveling with a group are two very, very different experiences. Both have their positives and negatives. Traveling on your own, you can go at your own pace and set your schedule. But! You have to plan every little detail and all the logistics, which can be exhausting and difficult. With a group, you don’t have to worry about any details (which is a huge relief) but you sacrifice flexibility. Also, you’re not just traveling with one person – no you have 50 other personalities to account for 🙂 I’m glad we did both.
Our group was challenging though because the tour agency did not schedule in enough time for all of the items on our agenda. Sure, it may only take an hour to drive to X and then 2 hours for the tour…but they did not factor in how long it takes for 50 people to get off a bus, use the restroom (especially if there are TWO TOILETS), get ready for the tour, tour, eat, probably go to the bathroom again and then get back on the bus. So feeling rushed was a big issue for our group. However, I was so impressed with the way people handled it. Not that we didn’t voice our dismay at only having 20 minutes to pray at Sacre Coeur (after CLIMBING THAT HILL) but I think everyone took it in stride. Doing so truly allowed the Holy Spirit to work through the time constraints. We also had an amazing leader – Steve Bollman. What a holy man! His wife and daughters were incredible as well. They helped keep us focus on our purpose – to draw near to God through the heart of the Holy Family. Each destination has its own historical significance, but Steve lead us deeper into the spiritual realities behind the facts.
We saw many beautiful things, and experienced an abundance of grace-filled moments. Our entire trip was truly an ascent to Lourdes. What a place of refuge and peace. Though the town may be full of shops, the area where you find the Grotto and the Basilica is void of vendors and distractions. It is a place of prayer. Sitting along the river with Josh and praying….going into the baths of Lourdes…attending Mass at the Grotto where Mary appeared…renewing our marriage vows…it was a tiny glimpse of what I believe preparing to enter into Heaven will be like. Joy. Peace. Excitement. Longing. Fulfillment. On this side of eternity, all those feelings are fleeting. Consolation comes and goes. But it is still a gift to have a tiny, minuscule taste of what God has in store for those who love Him.
Josh and I did not receive clear answers to our prayers, but we did receive assurance that God has heard us and that He is leading us and that He is with us. That He has indeed called us. To what? We have no idea! But we trust that in His time it will be revealed. In the mean time, He is working on and preparing our hearts. He is purifying us – and that is quite the process!
For all those who sent us prayer requests, please know that you were prayed for. Throughout our pilgrimage we tried to pray for you in places that were significant to your request or that reminded us of you. Many were prayed for in Lourdes (particularly those asking for physical, spiritual and emotional healing) and I pray that the peace we experienced overflowed into your own heart. God hears your prayers and He loves you.
We met up with the That Man is You pilgrimage group at the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal – where our Lady appeared to St Catherine Laboure.
Driving through the city, passed a neat cemetery.
Sunday Mass at Notre Dame
Headed about an hour outside of Paris to St Denis – the beginning of Gothic architecture.
This particular church was the resting place for many French nobility. All over the church you find tombs of various monarchs.
Headed back into the city to San Chapelle. Look familiar to anyone? This place is on the cover of the documentary series “Catholicism” 🙂
The light coming into San Chapelle was stunning.
quick and blurry :p
Back over to Notre Dame for a picture. As dear Kait Patt would aptly title this photo “NAMETAGS”
Sacre Coeur – Sacred Heart – a long climb to one of the most beautiful views of the city. At this church there has been perpetual adoration since 1885.
Just enjoyed some prayer time at Sacre Coeur and about to head back down the hill
Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. This is the church that holds the Sancta Camisa – the garment believed to be worn by our Lady during the birth of Christ.
Not amused by the headset for the tour. Also, my hair.
The tour was below average. I decided to stand in the corner and then go wander.
I mistakeningly believed that many old, gothic cathedrals were made to be dark…but that’s just years of history, dust and weathering. In this photo you can see the difference between the restored stone and the yet-to-be restored stone. How beautiful, right?
The restored area of Chartres. They were just beginning the entrance way and main body of the restoration that day.
I noticed this young man with an Averill Park shirt on – the high school Josh graduated from in NY. I stopped him and asked if he was an American and if he want to AP. Turns out, no. He is a Frenchmen that works for EF tours and the French teacher at SP always requests him as their guide! Each year the French class goes on tour, the teacher brings this guide an AP t shirt 🙂 Small world!
More of Chartres
The Sancta Camisa. While I often have a hard time in general with historical articles being “the real deal” this garment has undergone many tests dating it to the right era and region of Jesus and Mary. So, I’m still not sure what I think, but it was still a beautiful experience.
Came back into the city and had some free time. Chose to take a nap under the Eiffel.
then we went to dinner at Le Casse Noix, in the 7th arrond. This soup…they brought out the bowl with that floating thing in the middle (which was ice cold) then they poured in the hot soup around it – with duck, and basil and other magical herbs. It was probably, hands down, the most unbelievable soup/food I’d ever had.
For dinner, I had the duck. It was pretty good, but I was still dreaming about my soup.
Josh stills brings up this dessert with a misty and loving look in his eyes. It’s called The Floating Island.
I had some sort of amazing chocolate mousse/custard and cookies. The whip on top was out of this world, too.
The next day we officially left Paris, and headed out to the Normandy region. We stopped to take in the breath-taking view of Mont San Michel (St Michael). Depending on the tide, this is either an island or accessible by land.
On Mont San Michel.
Mont San Michel is the home of an old Abbey. Here is the large church that sits at the top of the hill (quite a steep climb up!)
A lovely courtyard
Taking in the gray, drizzly day.
The hall where the monks ate.
the ginormous fireplaces to keep the place somewhat warm
After Mont San Michel, we headed to where our hotel was in Granville – a beautiful, little coastal town. Hometown of the famous fashion designer. Christian Dior.
Morning in Granville – ready to state our tours.
I fell in love with all the French, stone houses.
Bayeux Cathedral. I loved Bayeux, and I loved this church. While it may be a destination for tourists, it still felt that the focus was Christ, prayer, the Sacraments. You could tell it was the home parish for many. Sometimes very popular Cathedrals (even though they probably are devout and served by holy priests and lay people) can feel so touristy and it’s hard to pray. But I just loved Bayeux and the feeling of holy, quiet reverence there.
Our most adorable and skilled tour guide in Bayeux.
Loved this lady.
Next we went to the American D-day Cemetery in Normandy and visited Omaha Beach. One man in our group had a relative who died in D-Day, and we had the humbling opportunity to visit and pay respects at his grave.
The view down to the beaches. The tide is high, as it would have been during the landing. Seeing the beach, and the hill these men had to climb…it made it so clear how disadvantaged their position was and why so many lives were lost.
Going down to the beaches.
Pondering. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Dinner with Father and Beau and Patty 🙂
Until someone pointed it out, I forgot that I was wearing my Dior glasses in the hometown of Dior!
Saying goodbye to our bus driver, Momo 🙂
Arrival in Lourdes! The apex of our pilgrimage.
Saying hello to our neighbors 🙂
Taking a morning tour through Lourdes and visiting the sites where St Bernadette lived and worked.
Love Mike and Lug!
St Bernadette’s family became very poor in her adolescence. Their home was incredibly poor – unfit to even be a prison. These are the only belongings that she had I believe. a cloak, some clogs and her rosary.
Bernadette’s favorite statue of Mary.
The beautiful Gave river.
In one of the churches there are giant posters of Saints and Blesseds. This one is for Mother Olga – Blessed Charles de Foucauld!
Sitting along the river and praying together.
Entering through the Saint Joseph gate…where we find our Lady, St Joseph is always there – quiet, obedient, selfless with an overflowing heart of love for our Lord and His Blessed Mother.
Sweet Mary Rose carrying flowers through the candlelight procession.
Pilgrims light candles and process up to the Basilica, praying the Rosary and singing songs of praise.
After the procession, we attended Mass at the Grotto of Lourdes and then each couple on the trip lit a prayer candle and renewed their marriage vows.
Stations of the Cross before Mass
Lourdes is nestled along the Pyrenees mountains – breathtaking.
Inside the Basilica there is a mosaic for each Mystery of the Rosary. Each Mystery is a moment in the life of Christ that serves as a meditation, drawing us into the Gospel, as we pray.
Last night with Beau and Patty!
Our spunky Spanish tour guide – Maite Jimenez Jimeno!
And we’re off! Heading back to the US of A