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An Unplanned Pilgrimage View Comments
By Jim Brennan

Throughout the year, more than 2 million pilgrims visit the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France, to entrust to Mary their prayer intentions and to observe the basilica’s stunning architecture.
CHANCES ARE, as many American Catholics associate Notre Dame with a university in South Bend, Indiana, as they do with Our Lady. Some may even wonder why a cathedral in Paris was named after a football team with a fighting leprechaun as a mascot. Fewer still are likely to be familiar with the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France. Admittedly, I was one of those in the dark until an inadvertent discovery on a recent vacation.

Our adventure started out as planned, with a few days in Paris, visiting many of the popular attractions including the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Luxembourg Gardens. When we arrived at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, it was immediately apparent why it is the most visited site in the city, even outranking the Eiffel Tower. Simply observing the 14th-century cathedral’s twin 228-foot towers— sculpted portals that portray scriptural themes and stained-glass artistry— makes it impossible to imagine a more magnificent structure anywhere on earth. And we hadn’t yet left Paris.

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Jim Brennan writes nonfiction, essays, and short stories from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in national publications including American Fitness, Inns Magazine, and Senior Living. He blogs about running and healthy lifestyles at rite2run.wordpress.com, and his memoir, Twenty-Four Years to Boston, is planned for spring 2013 publication.

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Visitation: This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and precede the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24). 
<p>Like most feasts of Mary, it is closely connected with Jesus and his saving work. The more visible actors in the visitation drama (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth. However, Jesus and John the Baptist steal the scene in a hidden way. Jesus makes John leap with joy—the joy of messianic salvation. Elizabeth, in turn, is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary—words that echo down through the ages. </p><p>It is helpful to recall that we do not have a journalist’s account of this meeting. Rather, Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet’s rendition of the scene. Elizabeth’s praise of Mary as “the mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the earliest Church’s devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth’s (the Church’s) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God’s words. </p><p>Then comes the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Here Mary herself (like the Church) traces all her greatness to God.</p> American Catholic Blog Someone once told Pope Francis that his words had inspired him to give a lot more to the poor. Pope Francis’s response was to challenge the man not to just give money, but to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty, and actually reach out and help.

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