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The Journey and the Destination

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Photo: They made it! Prayer time inside the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

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A sight to behold: The young men carried a processional Crucifix, an American flag, their group flag, and an eight-foot cross.

By Melanie Williams (Jun 23, 2016)
On the morning of Saturday, June 11, if you were at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, you would have heard lots of young men and religious laughing with joy and sighing with relief, "We made it!"

After traveling more than 20 miles by canoe and 50 miles by foot, 20 young men and a group of religious brothers and priests from the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious community in Still River, Massachusetts, made it to the Shrine in Stockbridge. The boys were all ages 16-20. Some of them go to the brothers' school, and some are from the surrounding area.

Starting on Wednesday, June 8, the young boys and the religious began with the Latin Mass and then went to Turners Falls, Massachusetts, where they set their canoes in the chilly waters of the Connecticut River.

"The first day ... we canoed nine miles. We camped out on a baseball field in a town that we were allowed to use," said Br. Anthony, one of the religious and teachers at the school. "Then the next morning we canoed 12 miles and then hiked another 15 miles to a campground. We stayed there Thursday night, and then Friday was the longest day — we hiked 28 miles. We stayed at another campground last night and then walked the last part, seven miles, here this morning."

While hiking, a van followed them with their gear. The young men carried a processional Crucifix, an American flag, their group flag, and an eight-foot cross.

When asked if they were walking the whole way back home, Br. Anthony laughed, "No. We're crazy, but we're not stupid!"

One of the young men, Matt Bacon, said, "The pilgrimage was tiring. It drove me past my limits for sure. I was just trying to keep up with everyone else, and I was just remembering the purpose of it all — it's not for me, it's to get to the Shrine."

Matt, who just finished up eleventh grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, said he learned so much from the whole experience.

"The whole purpose of this was self-conversion," he said, "so turning away from your desires and what you want to do, and doing what the Lord wants you to. I've learned perseverance, patience, and friendship. I didn't know more than half of the guys here, and now I've made some new friends. I definitely learned to humble myself, and I learned that I can walk longer than I thought! I wanted to swallow my pride and humble myself. I learned to push my limits, so I think I've learned to take on challenges with more motivation. This is definitely going to motivate me to tackle bigger things."

Brother Anthony shared that, in addition to Mass every day on their journey, they also had group prayer to truly make it a pilgrimage that fed the soul. "Each break along the way we would stop and have a reading from The Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. Each of the guys had to give a meditation on the chapter that he was assigned."

Matt gave one of the last meditations on the pilgrimage. "The first one was on our creation, and the second was the purpose for which we are created. So I talked about how we came from nothingness, and God created us out of His own goodness, and then how we are meant to be united with Him in Heaven. This whole pilgrimage has definitely brought me closer to God."

It not only brought Matt, Br. Anthony, and the rest of the group closer to God, spiritually, but also physically as they reached their destination at the National Shrine. Tired from their journey, they headed over to the picnic area for a well-deserved lunch and then explored the grounds, including the Lourdes Grotto, where they celebrated Mass. These were some true pilgrims!

Come make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy this summer while in the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy, whether by bus, plane, train, bike, foot — or canoe! Visit our website for more information.

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Denise - Jun 26, 2016

How wonderful!!!