After finishing our Trappist retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee, my two priest-friends and I decided to spend a couple days in Canada. Our destination was Montreal, Québec. We had been there briefly last year, visiting a few of the religious sights and we wished to return to spend a bit more time in this beautiful city with such a rich Catholic past.
Our first stop was the famous Oratory of St. Joseph at the highest point of the city. There we prayed at the burial place of St. André Bessette. Brother André (as he was better known) of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, was the humble porter responsible for the building of this massive basilica dedicated to the honor of St. Joseph. Then it was off to the old part of the city where we visited the famous Notre-Dame Basilica and the Notre-Dame-de-Bons-Secours Chapel. In the chapel, we prayed at the tomb of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s first woman saint, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame.
The next day it was off to the Co-Cathedral of Saint-Antione-de-Padoue (St. Anthony of Padua) in Longueuil, Québec where we found the remains of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher entombed at a side altar. Blessed Marie-Rose was the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It just happened to be her feast day (October 6) and we arrived to observe a special celebration with the bishop in this co-cathedral.
All through our travels in this part of French Canada known as Québec, we could not but notice the tremendous Catholic influence on the history of the people. The streets, buildings and various other locations had Catholic saint names. The many Catholic churches were a magnificent tribute to the honor and glory of God, filled with the stories of saints and martyrs.
The license plates of the cars of Québec province carry the interesting motto: Je me souviens (I remember). What exactly does it mean? On June 24, 1895, Canadian historian Thomas Chapais, during a speech given for the occasion of the unveiling of a statue honoring a military hero, said the following:
. . . The province of Quebec has a motto of which she is proud and which she likes enough to carve it on her monuments and palaces. This motto has only three words: "Je me souviens"; but these three words, in their simple economy of expression, are worth more than the most eloquent speeches. Yes, we remember. We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glories.
My hope and prayer is that they (and we) remember the rich Catholic faith that is such an important part of our tradition. In this Year of Faith, may we remember the North American martyrs and the many holy saints and founders of religious orders who worked tirelessly to bring and to establish our Catholic faith on this continent.
May their many sacrifices never go in vain. May we, as Catholics, remember who we are and where we came from, now and forever.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil
The Oratory of St. Joseph, Montreal