On Easter Sunday Fr Julian and myself had the great joy of leading ten young men on pilgrimage to meet St John Vianney. Ars was clothed with snow when we arrived and the Foyer Jean Paul II offered us a friendly welcome. It was a grace-filled pilgrimage; we did some prayer, we introduced the lads to the shrine and the spirtituality of the Diocesan Priesthood which is so tangible there, and we spent a lot of time together in real friendship. The presence of the Cure and his powerful intercession was a guiding force during our stay.
This most approachable of all priests is a much sought and very solicitous guide to so many young people and priests at this time. We took the opportunity of visiting his birthplace and the house where he grew up at Dardilly, marvellously preserved after more than two centuries. Our journeys between places gave us time to converse about our own experiences of life and growing up and to realise anew the providential way in which God is leading each one of us to love Him in a particular vocation and state in life. I asked the others after one journey if they had seen flames coming out of our car - our conversation had been so charged with faith and hope in God.
One day we spent in Pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial where Christ revealed His Sacred Heart to St Margaret Alacoque. This Shrine is intimately related with Ars, since St John Vianney made his life a very medium of the mercy of God given through the opened heart of the Saviour. Here, in the Chapel of St John, we spent an hour silently encountering that Heart given in the Blessed Sacrament. I think that the prayers which each of us made in that chapel, that day, were prayers for grace which will direct our whole lives in the future.
What a great grace it is for priests and young people to go away on pilgrimage together. Fr Julian and myself were very impressed by the calibre of the young men who were with us, their dedication to God, and their hope in the Life of Grace. We'll certainly repeat this Pilgrimage.