Dear Mr. Lloyd,
“Before amnesia sets in,” indeed …
Thank you for your patience! Please forgive the scattered order of the recollections that follow.
For me, the greatest challenge of the pilgrimage was not the actual walking and occasional discomfort experienced on location, but rather it was trusting Our Lord completely to make it safely from Maine to New York and back with my three youngest treasures (ages 12, 9, and 6) in the back of the car. I had only been driving locally for a few months, had never in my life driven on a highway, so it was tempting to just drop the whole idea.
Also, Louis, 9, became quite ill (high fever, lots of coughing) the day before we had to leave, and he would not have done well without me for five days. Fortunately I was able to see it as one more trick of you-know-who, although for a while I did wonder what kind of mother would drag a sick child on a distant pilgrimage … (Louis still coughed a bit during the next few days, but was basically fine.)
Ever since I had registered in August, I kept hoping one of the friends I had tried to entice to come along would do so, but in the end no one was ready to go. I knew all along that when you decide to do something good spiritually, all kinds of obstacles start popping up, but going alone (with no other adult for such a long trip) still seemed daunting. So I just kept praying, “Lord, I think you want me to do this, but if you really don’t, let me know and that will be my penance” (or something like that). My good husband Paul was ready to support me either way, thank God. He and I know how stubborn I can be to do my own will!
In the end, Our Lord provided – as usual – way beyond my wildest dreams. My son Olaf, 19, announced he needed to be in NH that same weekend and offered to drive us part of the way and back. The pilgrims from TMC [Thomas More College – ed.] kindly let me drive between their van and car all the way to NY, making a special effort to not drive too fast. And two families of friends whom we had met at our house in Maine the previous summer, who happened to live within miles of the pilgrimage (!) welcomed us into their homes on Thursday and Sunday nights. Incredible, were it not for the wonders of Divine Providence. Also, my editor in France accepted the idea of an article on the pilgrimage. All this, as you can well imagine, renewed my awe at the constant care and protection of Almighty God.
My spiritual focus for many months has been to pray for priests, and for the conversion of sinners as requested by Our Lady at Fatima. One of the reasons I wanted to attend the PfR [Pilgrimage for Restoration] was to expose my children to a kind of priest they hardly ever see around here in Maine : the priest who is striving to imitate Christ, to be holy, and who is eager to teach us the Faith unabashedly. When I heard Fr. Hellmann’s first sermon under the statue of St. Isaac Jogues, alluding to “souls falling into hell like snowflakes” because they have no one to pray for them, I was so grateful that he would have the courage to remind us all that our little insignificant sacrifices can help Almighty God save souls.
The next day Fr. Doran also spoke about Fatima and what Bl. Jacinta was ready to do, even at her young age, to help more souls reach Heaven. I believe my children benefited greatly from the presence of such magnanimous priests, and from the intermingling with other children who are growing up in large, Catholic families (almost unknown in our neck of the woods).
I must mention as well the generosity and kindness of fellow pilgrims, the delicious hearty soups, the unforgettable talent show which provided much needed comic relief, the calmness and cheerfulness of the director of the PfR who lifted everyone’s spirits, the stimulating battle cries “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, we love you, save souls”, the moving descent into the mosquito-infested ravine just before heading back, and the fact that as a French native who has now lived in exile for half of my life, I feel a deep spiritual connection with the valiant Jesuits who came to America so long ago. It was also humbling for me to realize that many pilgrims had traveled much farther than we had …
I must admit one disappointment, which was that as a member of the modified pilgrimage I did not get to walk very far (I love to walk). Well, as God would have it, I was invited upon our return to join a small group of our local parishioners on a 27-mile walk in one and a half days. Our goal was to pray for our parish, especially for more (holy) priests. The lady who started it had stumbled upon the national-coalition website and set about organizing a mini-PfR, without ever having participated herself!
Our Lord gave us gorgeous weather and my daughter Luba, 12, walked with us. Altogether, there were 5 mothers and 4 girls. We held a banner showing Our Lady of Fatima and prayed and sang along the way (I had copied several hymns from the PfR booklet). We started on Oct. 7, feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. That was also the day my son Olaf was spared in a terrible car accident in NH [which is its own marvelous story – ed.].
If you want to experience Christendom marching onward, make sure to be part of the 2012 edition of the Pilgrimage for Restoration!
All in all, there was an overwhelming sense of hope that as we witness the tragic descent of our world into a culture of death, we fellow pilgrims are keeping our eyes focused on Heaven and trust our Blessed Mother to guide us there along with all our children. We are not giving up, we are fighting, and we know Who wins in the end!
Again, my apologies for the tardiness of this answer. […] Thank you!
(Mrs.) Armelle Sigaud