VISIT TO THE OLD SHRINE AT NOTRE-DAME-DU-CAP
SEPTEMBER 10, 1984
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For as long as there has been evangelization here, there has been devotion to Mary. How indeed can one announce and realize the Son's work without turning to the Mother, without admiring her openness and her faith, without imploring her intercession? This very ancient shrine of Notre-Dame-du-Cap is evidence of the fact. I too am happy to have come here as a pilgrim.
Pilgrims come here from the whole of Quebec, from other provinces, from every part of Canada. Times of pilgrimage are high points in the Christian life, opportunities for community and personal prayer and that in a spirit of freedom and simplicity not always found at home. They are occasions for a return to the sources, in search of the Word of God. We come here to lay our concerns and our requests at Mary's feet, with a confidence pleasing to God. Often we rediscover at the same time our own vocation, as Christians, as priests, as religious. The contemplation of Mary Immaculate leads one to desire purification, the sacrament of penance, a renewed heart animated by the Holy Spirit. And I am sure that many, having prayed here with Mary, as on the feast of Pentecost, return home with an increased apostolic zeal".
It is therefore most important that these pilgrimages be well greeted and properly accompanied, that a spirit of prayer and the best possible ecclesial sensitivity be fostered in them. In this respect I congratulate and encourage the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who have been in charge of this shrine over the last 82 years. This morning I referred to the splendid work of evangelization that your brothers, my dear Oblate friends, have carried out and are continuing to carry out throughout the Canadian North and in many other areas, especially in the service of the Amerindians. In a certain sense, however, this ministry at Cap-de-la-Madeleine is also missionary work. It should make possible a renewal of the people of God. It is in line with the Marian spirituality you have helped to strengthen and to spread throughout Canada.
Standing here I would like also to pay tribute to the religious, both men and women, who join the pilgrims, serve them and pray with them. I appreciate particularly today the presence of contemplative nuns who, like Mary, Martha's sister, stand before the Lord in adoration, uniting themselves to his praise of the Father, to his redemptive sacrifice, in order to bear witness to their fervent love of Christ who has loved us so much and who is found here in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear sisters, with Mary, mother of Jesus, you contemplate her Son: "Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!" This silent, unselfish form of prayer is an important witness for all the pilgrims who came to this shrine. It has a mysterious fruitfulness for the deepening of their spiritual life.
Brothers and sisters, may the most holy Virgin obtain for you peace and joy in your service of the Lord! Through her, may God bless the ministry of the Bishop of Rome in this place! And may he accept the prayer that will now rise up from the community gathered near this basilica to celebrate the Eucharist.