This morning we got an extra early start to get through the commuting traffic on our way to Chartes, about 50 miles southwest of Paris. Today we celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, longed for a child. Anna prayed to the Lord and in response, God sent an angel to tell her that she would conceive. When Mary was born, they rejoiced and vowed to make their daughter a gift unto the Lord. As St. John Paul the Great said of Mary, her birth becomes, "the purest dawn of our Redemption," as her life brought forth the coming of our Savior. The whole world received the gift of salvation when Mary said, "Amen" to God's will.
Our first stop in Chartes was at the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Chartes (Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartes). The first of several cathedrals was built on this site in the 4th century. Subsequent cathedrals have been built over time as they were destroyed by fire or war. The present cathedral was built between 1194 and 1230 and dedicated to Notre Dame (Our Lady) in 1260. 80% of the beautiful stain glass windows are original to the 12th and 13th century and show biblical scenes such as the life of Jesus and Mary, the Last Judgment, and the Second Coming of the Lord. In the Mary Chapel, a relic of Mary's veil is displayed. We celebrated Mass in the Crypt and contemplated the salvation that all of us--the whole world--gained when Mary answered "Yes" to God's will.
Our next stop was back in Paris at Basilique Cathedrale de St-Denis (Saint Denis Basilica Cathedral)--where a large collection of church relics is housed. It's built over the original tomb of Saint Denis, the first Bishop of Paris, who was martyred around 250AD.
Our last stop was to the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse (Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal). The chapel features a beautiful fresco depicting the night of July 18-19, 1830 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Sister Catherine LABOURE. Four months later, in the silence of prayer, Sister LABOURE sees the Virgin Mary, her eyes raised to heaven, presenting to God the globe of the world, surmounted by a small cross and representing the entire world and each one of us. At Mary's direction, the Miraculous medal was created and devotion to Her Immaculate Conception has increased.
As we travel from chapel to chapel and learn about each of these saints who lived extraordinary ordinary lives, we see one of these amongst ourselves. We are blessed to have Phil Leahy joining us on this pilgrimage. Phil has devoted over 20 years of his life to praying for the end of abortion and lives these prayers as he ministers to mothers contemplating abortions and assists them with all their needs, including cars and child care, to keep and care for their unborn children. In assisting Phil, IHM Parish has provided over 50 of these automobiles for these young mothers. His prayer and direct help to these mothers has saved over 1000 babies. This "living saint" led us as we recited the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet on our journey today. Please keep Phil and all his good deeds in your prayers.