Wednesday, August 13, 1997
Our Pilgrimage began with a short flight to Detroit, followed by an easy but long flight to Paris. We were greeted by the lovely Claudine who led us through a crowd of (ripe) travelers. We were happy to board our bus, as the temperature control at Charles de Gaulle wasnt up to our American standard. We traveled by bus to the train station at Montparnasse, where we have begun our ride to Chartres.
While waiting for the train, some of us enjoyed our first taste of French cuisine -- baguette and fromage, yes, cheese. The cheesehead craving was satisfied.
At this point our bodies are feeling a 3:00 a.m. fatigue, but we must fight the jet lag because it is midmorning in France -- a beautiful sight. Oooh la la!
Carrie Mayer & Allison Mullee
Thursday, August 14, 1997
After the short train ride, we had to find our hotel. Our hotel was Hotel Chatelet. The hotel was cool. After we checked in we had a little prayer service in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres. After that we had time to do whatever we wanted. Some people went shopping, others ate French food. At 4:15 p.m. we had a tour of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres with Malcolm Miller. He sure knew how to put on a tour. The tour was great! Everything in and on the outside of the church had a meaning. The church was only built in 30 years! The church was beautiful! After that we had a group Mass in the crypt of Chartres Cathedral. The songs were beautiful! After the Mass, some of us had fine French cuisine.
Happy 40th Birthday Fr. Holmes!
Friday, August 15, 1997
Today was a nice, relaxing day in the beautiful town of Chartres. We started the day with Mass at 10:30 at the Cathedral. The Mass was very nice and it was inspiring to see the great love and devotion the people have here for Our Lady. Some of us also attended the 4:30 Mass for the World Youth Day participants. The church was packed with young people from all over the world. The rest of the day, people were free to do whatever they wanted. Some of us enjoyed the nice day with walks around town, some enjoyed the great French food and wine, while others enjoyed the legal Cuban cigars here! Looking forward to going to Lisieux tomorrow!
Saturday, August 16, 1997
In Chartres we met a group of pilgrims from the U. S. They have been making part of their journey to Paris by foot. They will be joining us for the trip to Lisieux.
When we get to Lisieux, it is too early to check into the hotel, so we drop off our bags and walk over to the Carmel of Lisieux to pray morning prayer. We find a spot in the garden to pray. Afterwards we learn about Ste. Thérese of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun of Lisieux from 1888-1897.
From here we decide to break up for lunch and sight-seeing. We will meet up again at 6:00 p.m. to say the rosary before Mass. Our group went to the street side stores to buy food for lunch. We bought bread at one, and fruits and vegetables at another. We went back to the Carmel garden to have our feast. While we were having lunch, the chaplain of the Carmel came out and talked to us.
Then we headed to Les Buissonnets, the childhood home of Ste. Thérèse. At the end of the tour in English we could ask questions to a nun in French. On our way to the Carmel for Mass, we stopped at St. Pierre. Other people from our pilgrimage went to see the Basilica of Ste. Ste. Thérèse.
After Mass we went our own ways once again to find dinner, which for our group lasted about three or four hours.
Sunday, August 17, 1997
We rose to greet a new day in the City of the Little Flower, Ste. Thérèse. During and after the continental breakfast, a number of us made the acquaintance of an American contingent from parishes in Queens, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut. (One of the priests in that group was originally from Italy.) It became apparent that our hotel, Hotel de lEsperance, was practically filled with Americans.
After breakfast, we put our luggage in a side dining room and left for the Basilica of Ste. Thérèse. Our group re-assembled at a statue of the saint near the entry way to the grounds, and then moved to a spot behind the church for morning prayer, just after 10:00. We then entered the church and took our places for Mass, joining the small pilgrim contingent we had met in Chartres.
The interior of the Roman-style Basilica is indeed breath-taking, both for its scale and for the colors of the art which decorates the walls and dome. The beauty of this church, which was built earlier in this century, causes one to wonder what the magnificent gothic structures we have been seeing on this trip must have looked like when they were new!
Many nations contributed to the construction of the Basilica. I am pleased to note that the Blessed Sacrament, which is not in the main Tabernacle, is reserved in the Tabernacle and on an altar which were donated by Catholics in the United States. (Rah! Rah!)
Mass, primarily in French, with a little Latin and Greek, was quite moving. At the Prayer of the Faithful there was only one intention offered -- the youth attending the JMJ and coming to the Basilica -- but in several languages. Afterwards, a number of people noted the impression made by the three thurifers, high swinging censers in unison.
After Mass, the tight schedule made it necessary for us to go directly to the hotel, retrieve our luggage, and hot-foot it to the train station to board the train to Rouen. (We all made it in time.)
The ride from Lisieux to Rouen was very pleasant, accompanied by clear weather and beautiful rural countryside.
We arrived in Rouen. Fr. Kevin convinced a couple of taxi drivers to carry one of our party and much luggage in each car, allowing the rest of us to walk unencumbered through town to our hotel (Hotel Mercure), located by the Seine! (I suggested that we swim to Paris the next day, but had no takers for some reason.)
After checking in, we walked downtown where I (Richard Bonomo) gave a brief talk about gothic construction while we took a brief tour of the great Cathedral of Rouen. (It was about to close when we got there.)
After that, we walked to the site of the burning of St. Jeanne dArc. At this point, we broke up into smaller groups to dine.
On the humorous side: When a few of us returned to the hotel from a leisurely dinner in the old section of Rouen, we ran into a bunch of Americans from several parishes in Jacksonville, Florida, who dragged a few of us into an impromptu performance of the chicken dance and the hokey pokey in the parking lot. They then departed -- with one of our party-- to do the same in the Cathedral Square. As the group was doing its thing in the parking lot, it was being observed by a number of French hotel employees. They no doubt thought we were out of our minds. Perhaps they were correct?
Eventually, all trickled back to the hotel from their evening meals (well stretched-out) and other activities, and thus ended the day.
Monday, August 18, 1997
The day started with Monsieur Joel bringing us (Desa & Cathy) breakfast to our room because we didnt have much time. What a nice guy!
At the Cathedral we said morning prayer and Mass. This was arranged by Father Holmes and the Archbishop of Rouen.
After splitting up, we visited the Cathedral of Saint Rouen. Outside the Cathedral there was a group of local citizens playing Bocce Ball.
We met at the tower where Joan of Arc was threatened with torture. The tower is part of a castle that is no more. The Fine Arts Museum of Rouen was very nice. There were a few Russian icons, from the 14th century, that were très belle, and many other styles of paintings and other objects.
Back to Paris for a week now. Three of us wanted food, of course, so we trekked around at 10:30 p.m. nothing open. As we were trying to find the rally for that night, two Frenchmen stopped to help us. We ended up at the police station for directions and for someone to speak English, and got neither! At about 11:30 we gave up and took the two guys for a beer for their help and chatted until 1:30 a.m.
An interesting day -- to say the least.
Tuesday, August 19, 1997
Today was our first full day in Paris and what a great day it was. We all met for breakfast downstairs by 9:30 a.m., and then headed on the Metro train to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Unfortunately about 100,000 other World Youth Day pilgrims had the same idea. It was so packed that we couldnt even get in. We then all went to the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur, at which another 100,000 or so pilgrims decided to go. We did get to visit this church, however, and it was very beautiful, although kind of dark. We had our morning prayers outside of a smaller church nearby, which inside had very beautiful music playing.
A few of us bought some JMJ t-shirts and postcards and we also then bought a big American flag, which proved to be very useful. We went in our separate directions for lunch. I went with Katie, Keith and Joel up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. After that we met up again for Mass with Cardinal Lustiger of Paris and the official opening of World Youth Day in Paris.
The excitement here is phenomenal. Everyone is so pumped up and so filled with such great energy. There are flags flying from every country in the world, and I have heard at least a dozen different languages so far. Yet there is such a strong sense of unity among the different nationalities. The Catholic Church is truly universal, and this was so evident today. So many people from so many different cultures have come together to celebrate and rejoice in the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit is so alive and active here, it is so contagious. Everyone is so happy and full of enthusiasm. No wonder why the Holy Father loves youth so much. Everyone was singing songs. The Italians were especially vociferous and there seemed like a million of them alone. Everyone seemed so joyful and today was a very exciting day. This entire week is going to be crazy, especially when the Holy Father arrives.
Wednesday, August 20, 1997
Today is the day before the Holy Fathers official greeting of all the participants of World Youth Day 1997. (World Youth Day is commonly referred to by the initials JMJ in France.) The morning JMJ catechesis was conducted by Archbishop Francis George of the good ol USAs Chicago Diocese. His message emphasized our going out into the world and teaching and baptizing its people; we need more bartenders and taxi drivers evangelizing and sharing the Good News.
After a brief interlude following the morning catechesis, our group met up together at the Convent of the Daughters of Charity, located on the rue du Bac in the heart of Paris. The Daughters of Charity is a religious order of women founded by St. Louise de Merillac and the famous St. Vincent de Paul. Among their number was St. Catherine Labouré, to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in 1830 and gave the Miraculous Medal. This medal is known for its miraculous effects on its wearers, most notably conversions.
We had the honor of celebrating Mass in that convents chapel that afternoon. It was very generous of the Daughters of Charity to allow us to do so, especially since so many pilgrims were visiting their convent on account of JMJ. Fr. Kevin was our celebrant. Mass was held immediately after our morning prayer. We had the further good fortune of once again meeting our friends from Chartres, the small group of American pilgrims that made their way from Lourdes to Paris. They joined in the celebration along with many other pilgrims from around the world!
The evening found our groups members doing different things. One of us, Jim Bartylla, attended a Mass and dinner for seminarians and formation personnel organized by the French bishops, he being a seminarian of our own Madison diocese. Another member and I attended a JMJ-sponsored event with the Taizé community. (Taizé is a nondenominational community of Christian
Brothers, including Catholic Brothers, focusing on healing the divisions between Christians, and, through the reconciliation of Christians, overcoming certain conflicts within the human family.) Taizé united the young pilgrims through a meditative service of prayer and song. The site was Eglise Saint-Sulpice. The remainder of the group attended a JMJ-sponsored dinner which included skits by the various JMJ delegations. Our own Richard Bonomo directed and lead the Madison pilgrims in a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic soon joined by all of the gathered pilgrims. An encore performance was requested, so Im told, but in the interest of time it was not given. The gathered pilgrims had the honor of hearing a talk by the great, great grand-daughter of Frederic Ozanam, founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Societys founding members were themselves youths when the Society was formed.
Thursday, August 21, 1997
This morning Father said Mass in the small garden by the hotel where we are. Then at 10:00 a.m. there was the WYD class for our section. Archbishop Bradey of Ireland spoke. The Archbishop is the Primate of Ireland.
We all then made our way to the rally to greet the Holy Father. We arrived five hours early. But the time went quickly and Father gave us all a very French lunch -- a picnic as we waited to see the Holy Father.
Music by WYD performers was very danceable and by 5:00 p.m. as they were singing Oh, Happy Day, the Holy Father arrived. Our group had standing room right by where the Holy Father drove by, and we were able to see him very well. And so it was a very Happy Day.
At the rally we met some French students who we enjoyed speaking with very much, and in the evening we all went together to the Sorbonne district and had some ice cream or wine. We all exchanged addresses.
Frederic Ozanam must have often spent such an evening with his young friends. (Wednesday night we heard the great, great grand-daughter of Frederic Ozanam speak.) Tomorrow is the Beatification -- that will be another Happy Day.
Friday, August 22, 1997
Today is marked with the notable event of the beatification of Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Our Holy Father celebrated a beatification Mass for Mr. Ozanam at the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris.
The evening found us participating in a special Way of the Cross. We and other JMJ pilgrims walked through the streets of Vanves, the Parisian suburb where we were staying. This was a local event, so only a couple hundred pilgrims were present. These Stations of the Cross ended with the opportunity for each pilgrim to participate in the Sacrament of Confession in his native tongue. This meditative walk was striking to me in the sense that I actually felt as though I was experiencing in some small way Our Lords passion, as the dry heat of the day slowly drained my energy and the dusty air intensified my bodys thirst for water. Oh how Our Lord must have suffered under that burden of carrying a great piece of wood, His body wracked with pain, physically from the beatings and emotionally from the rejection of His people.
Ed Yock & Neil Noesen
Saturday, August 23, 1997
Saturday began early for many of us with an 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. Francis of Assisis parish in Vanves. We actually spent much of the time from 8:00 - 9:00 practicing music for the Mass which was very spirited.
The next JMJ event (isnt it interesting how the World Youth Day initials correspond with the initials of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, Joseph?) for the day was the Chain of Brotherhood or Fraternity. All the JMJ pilgrims went to the outskirts of Paris, joined hands, and sang a version of Ode to Joy. It was a bit anticlimactic.
Then the trek to Longchamp, the site for the vigil and closing Mass of JMJ. Neil and Rich began the hike straight from the Chain of Brotherhood along with many international pilgrims. The rest of us headed back to the hotel before setting off.
Katie and I took naps so wed be rested up while Father Holmes and some others visited the Arc de Triomphe.
About half a dozen zealous members of our group gathered in the heat of late afternoon to walk the entire way from our hotel to Longchamp -- about 7-9 miles. They carried with them a large U.S. flag on a pole which was rigged up for the occasion.
While they set off, I made my way over to Notre Dame, which we had been unable to visit due to the huge masses of pilgrims. I enjoyed seeing the inside of the famous cathedral and took time to pray at some of the side altars before locating one of the areas set aside for prayer. While gazing at the moving sculpture of Our Lady behind the high altar, I tried to envision what it must have been like at that sacred place when Lady Reason was being worshipped with scary rituals mocking the Faith during the Revolution. It was difficult to imagine the hysteria of a mob and the sheer blasphemy of the ritual inside this church which, despite the number of visitors, still retained a prayerful dignity and calm.
While preparing to go to Longchamp, Ellen caught up with me and so we made our way to the park together. We were afraid we wouldnt be able to get in because a number of pilgrims were walking out saying there were twice the number of people expected and there was no room. We must have happened upon the right entrance, however, because we got in! We were unable to find our assigned section but were happily adopted by some volontaires who got us some food and assured us we could sleep wherever we found space.
We were both struck by the beauty of all the candles burning in the night as the Pope was conferring the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation upon some lucky candidates. The Holy Father spoke on a recurring theme of Baptism and the life of grace, fittingly enough.
After our departure, Ellen and I settled in to sleep, grateful for each others company. The night was quite chilly and damp and we thanked the young Italian who loaned us his jacket profusely.
We were located at a crossing of walkways and I got stepped on a few times before sitting up to defend life, limb and toes! When things calmed down a bit, I laid down again while Ellen went off exploring. She ended up joining one of the many groups that were singing songs and dancing. As for me, I went off to sleep, chilly sleep.
Sunday, August 24, 1997
August 24th, World Youth Day! I had not spent the night at Longchamp, suffering as I was from a bad cold (the French word for which I cannot pronounce without sounding like Inspector Clouseau). The pilgrims were just starting their day with a nutritious breakfast of cold cereal, irradiated milk, and a candy bar. It was breathtaking to see so many separatist flags in one place. There was a Basque flag and a Spanish flag sharing the same pole peacefully. The most intriguing flag by far looked like ours in black and white, only the black objects on a white field werent stars but pine trees with crosses on them. It was the flag of Brittany in NW France. The Mass commenced at 10:00 and the Gospel was sung with an eerie beauty by a deacon who, at 39, was younger than some of the youths in our group. Even before the Mass was over, groups began retreating, trailing behind their standards like the losers of some medieval battle. The mood was festive, with everyone singing and chanting. Then we had a prepacked picnic lunch and I must say that the catering firm of Sodexho outdid themselves this time. Lunch consisted of a tuna and lentil concoction that resembled top-shelf catfood, a cakelike object, and crackers. Then Ellen and I went to the Cluny, which is actually called La Musee Nationale des Arts du Moyen Age, where we saw lovely stained glass and unicorn tapestries. Afterwards we people-watched and little gypsy kids kept approaching us and asking for change. The first was a pro with his low, sad voice, his downcast eyes and his empty coin cup, and as the finale of his performance, he stroked Ellens hand gently. The other kids were not so suave -- one spit in front of me and then shook his coin cup in my face. I went to St. Denis after that and was stopped just before the door by a pair of West Indies girls who were so friendly that I was sure they wanted to pick my pocket. I had found a small Canadian flag, and they asked if I were a Quebecoise, then they wanted to take my photo. They said, We just love meeting people from JMJ because they have so much faith. Most people in France say God is dead. Then they asked if I spoke Spanish and when I said Sí, un poco, they handed me a pamphlet entitled Un Libro por Todo el Mundo and I knew Id been JWed [that is, approached by a member of the Wathtower Bible and Tract Society -- the "Jehovah's Witnesses" - ed]. I finally got to St. Denis just before it closed, so I got to see Charlemagnes tomb, only his name was spelled Kaelomagnus or something. Then Tricia and I went on a boat ride down the Seine, which was very beautiful - it was twilight as we pulled out, and when we returned it was
dark. The Japanese tourists on the boat hollered and yodeled under every bridge as if theyd never heard an echo in Japan. And these were middle aged men. Then suddenly they stampeded to one side of the boat, and when the dust cleared, they were all madly snapping photos of the Eiffel Tower. When we told a certain parish priest (who will remain nameless) about this incident, he made a remark which will not be repeated as it could be interpreted as jingoistic and perhaps rather xenophobic. Suffice it to say the remark involved God and World War II. All in all, Id say World Youth Day was a richly spiritual experience that left us with many warm memories and neat souvenirs.
Monday, August 25, 1997
At 0700 , we all hustled our booties down to the Metro Station so that we could catch the train to Lourdes. All of us groggie-eyed, sleep walkers managed to make the 8:05 train. Lucky us.
Well, the train ride took about 5 hours to get there. Everyone did their own thing. Some played cards. Others conversed. Still others wrote in these stupid diaries; in fact, one diary was named Mariah. I, on the other hand, nestled myself in by red pillow and slept by the window.
When we arrived in Lourdes, the countryside was incredibly beautiful. The Pyrenees Mountains stretched all across the land. How great God is!
After settling in our hotel, a small group went out for dinner. Food was great, as always. But Oh! How delightful the ice cream was! Becky and I ate tiramisu and noir de coco. You could taste parts of each specific food in the ice cream. The ice cream here, Ill never forget!
After dinner, we visited the grotto of Lourdes. At this time, rain had been falling quite steadily. Thus, there wasnt much of a line -- that felt nice. I myself lighted a candle in an offering of prayer.
Since it was raining, we decided to go process the following night. We returned to the hotel and prayed night prayer and rosary. It was a quiet evening.
Some of us joined one another with drinks. I had hot coco, and others had kir royale, still others had Perrier water.
The night ended with some of us playing charades. We imitated famous people such as Fr. Kevin, Rich Bonomo, etc. It was all in good humor since we love them all, very dearly.
After that, I dropped into bed, and collapsed into a deep sleep.
Tuesday, August 26, 1997
After breakfast, a group of us went to wait in line for the baths. While we were waiting, we prayed the rosary. At 10:00, they told us that we would not get into the baths. After this, Tricia and I went to the Adoration Chapel and spent some time there. We then went back to the hotel and changed. At 12:00, we had Mass at a little chapel in the Rosary Basilica. After Mass, Tricia and I decided that we would try to get into the baths that afternoon. So we got into line. It was about 12:45, there was a lot of time to pray because the baths didnt open until 2:00. They had leaflets about how to prepare yourself for the bath. At 2:00 -- when the baths opened, they prayed the rosary and sang Marian hymns. We got into the baths around 3:25. I was very happy that they had given us leaflets because once you got into the baths, things went very fast. It was a wonderful experience. After the bath, Tricia and I went to the supermarché and we bought some bread, cheese, ham, tomatoes and peaches. We had a good feast. Then we
met up with other group members and we watched the procession of the sick. It was very touching to see the procession of the sick. It was like meeting Christ crucified. Then we went back to the hotel and dropped a few things off. Tricia and I then went to the Grotto and we also got Lourdes water. Afterwards we went souvenir shopping. At 8:15 our group met in the hotel lobby to go to the candle light procession. The candle light procession was one of the memorable experiences of this trip. You really felt the universality of the church. There were many pilgrims from many countries present. They also prayed the rosary and sang songs in many languages. It also seemed to me that Our Lady was present and it was a beautiful experience! Afterwards a few of us went and got a bit to eat. Then I went back to the hotel, packed, and I went to bed.
Wednesday, August 27, 1997
The day began with our group Mass at the high Basilica at the Lourdes site in the chapel of St. Anne. Father Kevins homily spoke of our varied experiences in France and how each of us will draw different insights from our trip. He analogized our trip to the Blessed Mothers request at Lourdes, i.e., merely to come to Lourdes. In other words, the importance of our France trip is that we did it. The insights will flow naturally from it later.
As we departed Lourdes on the TGV Train, we lost Neil Noesen. He arrived at the station just as the train exited the terminal. Neil ended up telephoning our hotel in Paris to let us know he would catch the next train from Lourdes.
On the train we gave Father Kevin three gifts: a snow globe (of St. Jeanne dArc), an icon of the Assumption, and a prod (medallion) of Toulouse. Father Kevin, although enjoying all the gifts, must have liked our snow globe reliquary the best. After all, hes a man of taste.
We arrived at Hotel Libertel near Gare du Nord as our last hotel. It was the most luxurious of our hotels on the trip. Ed, Tricia, Lisa and I went for our last dinner in Paris and didnt spare any expense. Our desserts were decadently laden with chocolate. We arrived back at the hotel at 1:00 a.m. after a leisurely stroll through the Parisian neighborhood. Au revoir, Paris!!!
Thursday, August 28, 1997
4:45 p.m. departing Detroit Airport for Madison. Highlights for today:
1. Departed Charles de Gaulle Airport for Detroit.
2. Arrived in Detroit Airport
3. Mass in airport
4. Departed Detroit for Madison.
Comments: Today was rather uneventful. It consisted of your basic checking in your baggage, sitting on the plane, eating, napping, and chit-chatting. (There was one minor incident that I have sworn under oath under no circumstances to disclose any information regarding the mysterious disappearance of a passport belonging to Father Kevin.) The incident was not serious. The passport arrived to the airport in plenty of time without problems.
Mass at the airport was a bit sad. We knew that our band of pilgrims would soon need to disperse and return to our daily lives. Yet, at the same time I was happy to see the love amongst us that had been growing steadily throughout the whole pilgrimage. On behalf of all of us, I thank you, our Blessed Mother, for your loving care. I especially thank you, Our Lady of Lourdes, for the many healings you have graciously granted to us.