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September 2 - Montreal Day 2

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordSeptember 2, 2020
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For the readings of today’s mass, go to

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/090220.cfm

Yesterday (Tuesday) I had hoped to visit 3 famous churches of Montreal, but unfortunately, it turned out that one them,  St. Patrick’s Basilica, which is located only 2 and a half blocks away from Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, is currently only open at the time of its weekday mass.  While I was disappointed to learn upon my arrival there that I would be unable to enter the Basilica, I fully understand as it would require would require staffing for it to be open to the public during the current pandemic.  In any case, let me share with you some thoughts about the other two that I was able to visit and enter.

In the morning I took the subway and then walked to St. Joseph’s Oratory, which is located on the north west side of Mount Royal.  This Basilica is the famous shrine founded by St. Brother Andre (1845-1937), who belonged to the Congregation of the Holy Cross (CSC), the same religious order which runs Notre Dame University in the USA.

The original church, a simple wooden structure dedicated to St. Joseph was started in 1904 under the direction of Andre, and it still exists today, about 100m from the current basilica. I started by visiting this tiny wooden chapel, and then moved over to the current shrine. 

This is a very massive shrine, and I began with a visit to the crypt church at the base of the shrine (which holds 1000 people) as well as visiting the tomb of Andre.  In that area there are at least 100 crutches that were left behind by those who, through the intercession of St. Joseph and the grace of God, were healed by Brother Andre in his lifetime.  The site of those crutches is a deeply moving experience and a very prayerful place. 

I then moved upstairs to the shrine church, which has been designated as a basilica church by the Vatican.  The massive interior takes one’s breath away, especially with its towering dome that is based on the dome of the famous Duomo of Florence, Italy.

Most of all, my time there was reflecting again on how one tiny man of such limited education could impact so many people.  Andre’s healing gifts and legendary common sense made him a magnet of people, both rich and poor, in search of healing.  Andre’s huge devotion to St. Joseph led to this current massive shrine in St. Joseph’s honour.

To see more about the shrine, go to http://www.saint-joseph.org/  and then click on EN on the top right corner of the homepage.

From there, I took the subway to Bonaventure station and then made the short walk to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral.  Since 1875 this building has served as the Cathedral church for the Archdiocese of Montreal.  Originally named St. James Cathedral, its name was changed to the current one in 1955.  The church was designed to be a miniature version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, including a baldacchino similar to Bernini’s famous one in St. Peter’s. 

This is a very prayerful church and gets nowhere the number of visitors as does Notre Dame Basilica or St. Joseph’s Oratory.  Being located in central downtown, and right on Rene Levesque Blvd., it is an oasis of calm in a very busy area.  To see more, go to this website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Queen_of_the_World_Cathedral for a good summary of the cathedral.  The cathedral’s official website, in French, is  http://microsites.diocesemontreal.org/microsites/cathedralecatholiquedemontreal/

Finally, as I make my way home today, I cannot help but be mindful of the countless who made such churches possible - whether they were the clergy and religious who had the vision, the architects, engineers, artisans, artists and labourers who made the vision become real, or the laity who wholeheartedly supported these projects with their prayers, financial resources and moral support. All this was done for the glory of God and the building up of God's  church.  All these years later we are beneficiaries of their efforts. Thus we thank God, and we thank them.