Faithful enlivened by Magnificat Pilgrimage of Hope

BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined more than 1,500 pilgrims at Magnificat magazine’s Pilgrimage of Hope Oct. 11 and 12 at Boston’s Convention and Exhibition Center, for prayer, lessons and music.

“Bringing the pilgrimage to Boston was a way to celebrate the connection of the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston and that the first bishop of Boston was French,” said Pierre-Marie Dumont, the magazine’s publisher, through a translator. “There was a parallel of the Magnificat coming to Boston from France, like the first priests and bishop.”

Bishop Jean Cheverus, Boston’s first bishop, returned to France to become the Archbishop of Bordeaux and a cardinal, he said. For this reason, that see’s current archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, was invited to participate. “We have two successors of Cheverus with us, Cardinal Ricard and Cardinal O’Malley.”

There was great momentum among friends of Magnificat to hold the pilgrimage in Boston following the last pilgrimage in New York City in 2002. The support was so great that Dumont felt the city would be motivated to not only celebrate the archdiocese’s bicentennial, but also the 10th anniversary of the magazine, he said.

“Among the motivated friends who supported Magnificat coming to Boston, the first and foremost was Cardinal Seán, who has shown his extraordinary and magnanimous support for the pilgrimage by visiting us four times, the Mass and dinner Saturday, the Mass today (Sunday) and on Friday when he made a special welcome to the arriving French.”

The cardinal has been a strong supporter of the magazine since he was the Bishop of Fall River, he said.

At the end of the closing Mass on Sunday, the cardinal gave the pilgrims an Apostolic Blessing, in the name of Pope Benedict, invoking the intercession of Sts. Peter, Paul and Mary. This blessing was given in Latin, after a deacon made a preparatory announcement in English.

The blessing included a plenary, or full, indulgence for the Pauline Year granted by Pope Benedict XVI. The indulgence was available to those who, in addition to attending the Mass, fulfilled the Church’s standard conditions for obtaining an indulgence: confession, reception of the Eucharist and prayer for the intentions of the pope. A plenary indulgence grants a full remission of temporal punishment due to sin.

Marking the 150th anniversary of the Marion apparitions at Lourdes, Robert Le Gall, OSB, the Archbishop of Toulouse, France -- the diocese that contains Lourdes -- gave a talk on the apparitions and on St. Bernadette, the girl who saw Virgin Mary.

It was not until the sixteenth apparition that Our Lady finally told Bernadette her name, he said. “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The fact that so many churches in America are now named after Mary, the Immaculate Conception demonstrates the close ties between the Church in France and America, he said.

Each day of the conference featured its own keynote address. The Saturday address, “Magnificat and the Prayer Life of the Christian Couple,” was given by Michele M. Schumacher, who teaches theological anthropology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

It is significant that the magazine, a liturgical guide that leads us to a prayer life inside the Church, was founded by a lay couple, she told The Pilot after her address.

“The magazine is very simple in its concept, and yet that prayer life is not always easily accessible to the lay faithful. How many of us are really going to get a list of the Sunday readings, or even the daily readings for that matter, and then look them up in the Bible -- if we can even find our Bibles?” she said.

“I always keep it in my purse and pull it out when I have a moment. Sometimes, I read the Morning Prayer and it is really noon, but it is refreshing to be connected with the rest of the Church through its prayers,” she said.

Schumacher said she was impressed by vitality in the Church in America that she does not see in Europe.

“There is a resilience in the Church here; even with such a weight of what happened here in Boston is being renewed. What is happening here this weekend speaks to this. You can feel the power of the people living with Christ,” she said.

Sunday’s keynote address, delivered by Father Peter J. Cameron, OP, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, was on what the pilgrimage meant and how it can continue in the lives of the pilgrims afterward.

“What happened to us these days was not an accident -- and it was not something we brought about,” Father Cameron said. “It happened because a presence came into our lives and we said ‘yes’ to it -- and that ‘yes’ took a special form, and that form was love, that form was charity.”

The priest said he had a special prayer for those who have trouble with charity. “Oh Lord, help me to love other people the way I love my new car.”

This behavior is virginal love, he said. “To love virginally is to love in such a way that you delight in the pristine beauty of the other to such an extent that you never want it to be spoiled.”

It means that you never want to manipulate, possess or pre-judge what is put in front of you, he said.

“Good parents are good parents because they are virgins,” he said. They love in such a way that they know one day they will have to tell their children good-bye, instead of always trying to hold on to them and begging them to stay.

Saturday’s afternoon session was filled with specialized break-out sessions on a variety of topics such as “Praying with Sacred Images: Illustrations from Christian Art” given by Father Michael Morris, OP or “Hope Does Not Disappoint: The Forgotten Theological Virtue,” given by Father Romanus Cessario, OP.

Throughout the pilgrimage, there was music, both at the Masses and the prayer services and as musical interludes performed by musicians and singing groups, including the Archdiocese of Boston Boy’s Choir.

Saturday evening there was a full concert, “Magnificat in Music,” a canticle from the Gospel of Luke recalling Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Elizabeth feeling John the Baptist stir in her womb at the presence of Christ in the womb of Mary.

Looking back on the Pilgrimage of Hope 2008 in Boston, Dumont said it was a great success because of the pilgrims who came to Boston to be a part of it. “I was very taken by their Christian spirit, their sense of devotion and their simplicity of heart.”

His wife Bernadette said, through a translator, she was moved by the experience. “I was especially taken by the spirit of reverence among the Catholics of Boston. I am so impressed that American Catholics devote so much energy to learn more about their faith.”