'Advance Party' Prepares Cormac Pilgrimage With Triduum of Prayer and Joyful Praise
Parishioners at Saint Ann Parish Cormac have prepared for the annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine with a three-day prayerful celebration of faith each year since 1941. From the first pilgrimage in 1938 through to 1940, preparation consisted of a nine-day novena of prayer in the parish. Apart from a ten-year hiatus in the post-war years of 1946-1956 when it was not held, the Triduum has been a popular devotion for local residents, cottagers and people from the surrounding area at the end of July each year since then. Guest speakers at this event have generally come from outside of the diocese and frequently were mission preachers or visiting bishops or priests invited by the local parish priest.
The Triduum this year was given by Father Howard Chabot, a priest of the Diocese of Pembroke who is retired from full time pastoral ministry. Father Chabot also was the celebrant and homilist at the Sunday afternoon Mass for the sick celebrated at the Shrine. He was assisted by Deacon Adrien Chaput who provided a meditation song following the homily each evening.
Father Chabot began the Triduum suggesting: “We might consider ourselves the ‘advance party’ – parishioners and friends of Saint Ann gathered here in this holy place in an atmosphere of faith and an environment of prayer into which will come pilgrims from throughout the Diocese of Pembroke and beyond … pilgrims led by the Holy Spirit who like us are invited to draw near to the Risen Lord Jesus that they might know the Merciful love of God the Father.”
The theme of this year’s 78th Annual Pilgrimage was taken from Psalm 130 in which the Psalmist exclaims “With the Lord there is mercy”.
Reminding the congregation that they had gathered under the patronage of Saint Ann, the grand-mother of Jesus, Father Chabot recalled how Pope Francis in his daily homilies often speaks of his “Granma Rosa” as an inspiration for his folksy illustrations of a Gospel truth. He said that using this image of a grandmother as one who is loving and tender in relating to her grand-children, the Pope is able to present the central theme of his papal ministry which always is focused on God’s mercy. Father Chabot went on to explain how the Holy Father’s call for a “Revolution of Tenderness” was a catchy phrase based on God’s Word in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels. Quoting from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, he linked the Holy Father’s call to Jubilee to this Vatican II document which speaks of how “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of this age especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted…. are also the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
“The challenge”, he said “is for you and me who have received mercy to do our part in a revolution of tenderness by going forth to show mercy to others”
He concluded the opening night reflection with a prayer asking Saint Ann’s intercession that this teaching be planted within our hearts to re-form and reshape us, prodding and empowering us by the Holy Spirit day by day to be “Merciful like the Father”. Only in this will we fulfill God’s plan and find rest for our souls” he said.
Friday night’s homily focused on the Biblical Book of Psalms as the prayers that were familiar to Saints Ann and Joachim, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, Himself. The reflection began by recalling the Fourth Psalm and the Psalmist’s search for happiness. The awareness that came from having personally experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness gave the Psalmist a trust that he would always be given an attentive ear when he called upon the Lord. Using the stories of King David, Saint Augustine and reflecting on personal experience we discover how every human heart longs for peace and an assurance that as pilgrims on life’s journey we can hope to obtain the deepest desire of our souls.
“As we journey”, Father Chabot said, “the Risen Lord Jesus invites us: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’. This is our opportunity for our personal encounter with Christ and as Pope Francis writes in The Joy of the Gospel “every moment is a perfect time to take a step towards Jesus [and] realize that he is already there, waiting with open arms.”
Such is the copious mercy of our God!” He concluded, quoting the author of the Imitation of Christ: “…the Kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, and if you prepare within your heart a fitting dwelling place, Christ will come to you and console you.”
The Saturday evening reflection by Father Chabot drew much admiration because it focused on a subject very dear to the congregation. He spoke about Saint Ann and Joachim as the first Holy Family of Nazareth as it was within their family that Mary was formed as a woman of faith ready to accept the vocation to become the Mother of the long expected Saviour. Hearing and responding to the Word of God as Mary did allows us to learn the way of being “merciful like the Father”.
Using the accounts of the Wedding Feast at Cana and Mary standing at the Foot of the Cross, Father Chabot showed how the common thread in all the reported apparitions of Mary is that she exhorts God’s People to prayer, repentance and an increased devotion to her Divine Son. Throughout the centuries ever since the Council of Ephesus in 431 the Church has always looked up to Mary and those who love Jesus receive Mary, his mother as their mother. She was Our Lord’s gift to us from the Cross.
He concluded acknowledging a litany of the Church’s devotion to Mary as “Mother of the Church, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted, Mother of Mercy, Our Life, Our Sweetness and our Hope… “And so, with all the affection of our heart and full submission of our minds to the Marian Dogmas of our Holy Faith, we repeat the Church’s familiar words in praise of the Mother of Jesus. ‘Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy! Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception! Blessed be her glorious Assumption! Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother! … and then: Blessed be God in his Angels, Saint Ann and all the Saints, now and forever. Amen”
The evening concluded with a candlelight procession to the Shrine where the the participants were anointed with the Oil of Saint Ann. The congregation increased in number each evening and with great gusto sang the hymn: “O Good Saint Ann, we call on thy Name. Your praises loud, your children proclaim!” A spirit of charity prevailed and the joy of the Pastor, Father Ken O’Brien and the faith of the People was most evident throughout the Triduum and Pilgrimage.