Lenten Pilgrimage 2018: Bringing Our Lady’s Blessings to the Streets
By Ben Broussard
Bagpipes echoed through the stopped traffic. Priest and servers led the way. Eight men carried a float with the Blessed Mother aloft. A long train of the faithful raised their rosaries in the air.
The 7th Annual Lenten Pilgrimage made its way through Port Arthur TX on Saturday March 3, 2018. Sung Holy Mass commenced the morning followed by prayers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dedicated in 2001, the massive outdoor shrine features large rocks from Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City. The towering statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego look down upon the faithful. A solemn blessing of pilgrims followed by prayers for particular intentions preceded the day’s trek.
The bright red standard of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) was soon raised and carried through the streets. As the long procession winded from a major street into a neighborhood, so many stopped and watched, in awe at the sight. Locals and those passing through took photos and stood in awe of this public honoring of the Mother of God. Remembering all the Catholics in Islamic countries and Communist China currently suffering persecution, the day’s public prayers and solemn ceremonies underscored the need to pray and offer sacrifices for their perseverance.
More than a hundred participants prayed, sang and walked under sunny skies. The first stop was St. Catherine of Sienna Church for a spiritual talk by Fr. Joshua Houck, FSSP. Knights of Columbus graciously provided fried fish for the hungry pilgrims. More walking and praying soon led to the next stop at Calvary Catholic Cemetery. A blessing of the tombs accompanied by Gregorian chant and prayers for the holy souls soon followed. The historic Church of St. James the Greater, a unique octagonal building in the classical style, served as the setting for the afternoon Way of the Cross.
The last stretch led down busy Gulfway Drive amid stopped drivers and pedestrians looking on with admiration. As the joyous faithful sang the Salve Regina, the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace soon came into view. Built by Vietnamese Catholics who settled in Texas after the Fall of Saigon, the impressive statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary three times life size dominates the surrounding area.
The Solemn Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and final blessing concluded the day’s events. As Catholic practice is more and more being banished from the public square in our days, an event like the Lenten Pilgrimage becomes more important to manifest the public honoring of God and the Blessed Mother in society. May Our Lady take the prayers and sacrifices of the pilgrims and present them to her Son to hasten the triumph of her Wise and Immaculate Heart.