For many of Canada’s traditional faithful, this year’s pilgrimage to the Martyrs’ shrine was an occasion of grace. Pilgrims rose early and drove the long distance to Midland in northern Ontario, gathering at the very site where two Jesuit priests had been martyred by the Iroquois in the seventeenth century.
Father Emmanuel Herkel opened the pilgrimage by recounting the many difficulties suffered by these two French missionaries, Saints Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lallemant. Not only did these priests suffer a most horrific and glorious death for Christ, they also bore countless daily crosses during their years of ministry in New France. All this they offered lovingly for the salvation of their savage and ignorant neighbors. Father Herkel then encouraged all the pilgrims to bear the difficulties of the day’s hike with the intention to convert the modern pagans which surround us still.
The pilgrims marched in groups arranged by age and fitness, with Fr. May and the young men from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School leading the way, praying the rosary. In between prayers and pious reflections offered by Frs. Herkel and May, the pilgrims had time to prepare a good confession and also conversed casually with fellow pilgrims, lightening one another’s burdens through healthy recreation.
The weather was beautiful, and after a quick and well earned lunch on the shores of the Georgian Bay, the pilgrims finally reached the Martyrs’ Shine itself, having walked roughly 15 kilometers. An outdoor Mass and veneration of the relics concluded the pilgrimage.