Last updated on November 4, 2020
Each of my paddling pilgrimages on Georgian Bay since 2007 started at Ste Marie (Martyrs’ Shrine) on the Wye River in Midland, Ontario.
A day of prayer at the Shrine with Mass and readings from the Holy Canadian Martyrs set the tone for paddling a stretch of the coastal holy water the Jesuits travelled with their Huron guides to and from the mission.
My wife and our first two of seven children experienced Pope John Paul II when he came to Canada in 1984, making the Martyrs Shrine one of his stops. He and the Jesuit Martyrs have found a secure and blessed place in my heart.
This summer’s pilgrimage began with a stark hit. The Martyrs Shrine is closed for the 2020 season due to Covid-19. As in previous visits, I paddled up the Wye River to the burial site of Jean de Brebeuf for prayer and silence. With this visit only a week away from the Solemnity of our Blessed Mother’s Assumption I’ve dedicated my paddle-only visit and this article to her.
The Jesuits named the mission Ste Marie. Their love and dependency on our Holy Mother are revealed beautifully in the words of Jerome Lalemant shown below. This plaque is located just outside the Shrine Chapel.
From the moment I read those words I’ve tried as often as I can to call the shrine Ste Marie, always giving the Mother of God my heart and gratitude for the abundant grace and peace I’ve experienced there. She has carried my family in her arms and brought about in a way only she with her Son can the birth of our youngest child, Rosemary in 1999, the same day as St John Paul II’s birth, May 18.
Three of our seven were born in August, the other three in January. Every birth is sacred, but God had something in mind with Rosemary’s birth, because she was in her mother’s womb when my wife and I had to separate in 1998.
So, to highlight Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ste Marie, his role in my life and family I’ve chosen an excerpt from his 1999 homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Homily Excerpt Pope John Paul II
At today’s solemnity, the ecclesial community renews Mary’s song of thanksgiving: it does so as the People of God and asks every believer to join in the chorus of praise to the Lord. St Ambrose already urged this in the early centuries: “In each one may the soul of Mary praise the Lord and the spirit of Mary exult in God” (St Ambrose, Exp. Ev. Luc., II, 26)…
In presenting the “great sign” of the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rv. 12:1), the passage from the Book of Revelation, which has just been proclaimed, says that she “was with child and … cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Rv 12:2). Mary, when she goes to help her cousin Elizabeth, as we heard in the Gospel, carries in her womb the Saviour, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Both representations of Mary, the historical one described in the Gospel, and the one mentioned in the Book of Revelation symbolize the Church. The fact that the condition of pregnancy, like the impending birth, the perils of the dragon and the abduction of the newborn child “caught up to God and to his throne” (Rv 12:4-5) also belong to the “heavenly” Church contemplated in the Apostle John’s vision, is very eloquent, and in today’s solemnity becomes a reason for deep reflection.
Just as the risen Christ who has ascended into heaven forever bears the wounds of his redemptive death within his glorious body and his merciful heart, so his Mother brings to eternity “the pangs” and “anguish for delivery” (Rv 12:2). And as the Son, through his death, never stops redeeming all who have been begotten by God as his adopted children, thus the new Eve continues from generation to generation to give birth to the new man, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). This is the Church’s eschatological image, which is present and active in the Virgin…
Taken up into heaven, Mary shows us the way to God, the way to heaven, the way to life. She shows it to her children baptized in Christ and to all people of goodwill. She opens this way especially to the little ones and to the poor, those who are dear to divine mercy. The Queen of the world reveals to individuals and to nations the power of the love of God whose plan upsets that of the proud, pulls down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich empty away (cf. Lk 1:51-53).
Antiphon for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Virgin most prudent,
where do you go forth,
shining exceedingly as the dawn?
Daughter of Zion,
you are all beautiful and gracious,
fair as the moon, bright as the sun.