September 15, 2021

Pilgrimage to The Holy Mountain

Neoborbonici atop the Holy Mountain
Ant. In viam pacis et prosperitatis dirigat vos omnipotens et misericors Dominus, et Angelus Raphael comitetur vobiscum in via, ut cum pace, salute et gaudio revertamini ad propria.*

I cannot thank Fr. James Miara and the organizers of Juventutem NYC enough for allowing this old-fogey the opportunity to partake in their inaugural Vexilla Regis traditional young adult walking pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady to Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, New York on Saturday, September 11th. A spiritually edifying and faith-filled day, the excursion was a terrific opportunity to observe our devout and dynamic Catholic youth in action. Their religiosity and sanguineness was inspiring and restored my wavering expectations of young folk in these uncertain times.

Fr. Miara blesses the pilgrims and the processional statue of Our Lady
Meeting up with some fifty pilgrims at dreary Grand Central Station in Manhattan, we took an hour long train ride along the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line to Manitou in Putnam County, New York. Greeted and blessed by Fr. Miara, our troop began its vigorous ten mile trek with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima through the verdant hilly uplands to Graymoor Monastery, informally known as “The Holy Mountain.”
Fr. Miara led us in prayer
Blessed with picture perfect weather, we wended our way through the bucolic countryside singing and praying to Our Lady, as she implored in Fatima. Fr. Miara, who is the Pastor of the Shrine Church of the Holy Innocents (128 West 37th St.) in Midtown Manhattan and chaplain of the NYC chapter of Juventutem, offered Holy Confession at the rear of the procession the entire journey. On the few occasions we crossed paths with the locals, the passersby overwhelmingly showed their support.
The pilgrims make their way through the countryside with great pageantry
Sadly, but not surprisingly, even in rural areas there are a handful of virtue signalers who marred the picturesque landscape with their woke agitprop and hollow slogans scrawled on planks of weathered wood. Tempted to call it graffiti, the unsightly signs were legible and spelled correctly so they were most likely erected by misguided property owners, rather than spoiled teens. 
The entrance procession during Mass
After processing for a little over two hours we arrived at Graymoor, the tranquil home to the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement. Ascending the mountain, we passed several shrines and a small cemetery before settling in to the outdoor Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua for High Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated by Fr. Miara, who was dutifully assisted by several servers and cantor. 
High Mass was celebrated beneath the Baldacchino di Sant'Antonio
Following Mass, we mingled and broke bread together in a shady picnic area. Treated to an impressive spread, there were heaping trays of grilled chicken, pork spare ribs, Italian deli sandwiches, and various salads with all the fixin’s. Since I was fasting, I only indulged in a few vegetables to help keep up my strength, but everything looked delicious.
Consecration of the Host and the Wine
Sated, we had the opportunity to explore the monastery grounds, and pray and meditate at the various shrines, chapels and grottos. I was able to briefly visit the St. Anthony of Padua candle grotto; the Servant of God Fr. Paul Wattson tomb; the Byzantine Rite Chapel of the Holy Spirit; and the St. Francis of Assisi chapel with high altar that once marked the spot at Mount Alverna where he received his holy stigmata in 1224. 
The pilgrims were treated to a splendid array of food
Amazingly, the statue of St. Francis of Assisi enthroned above the historic altar is one of only two in the world created with the saint’s death mask. So, instead of an idealized depiction, the image is an accurate likeness of the saint’s visage after of his death.
Altar and statue inside the San Francesco d'Assisi chapel
As they say, all good things must come to an end, so we reconvened by the large Crucifix at the monastery entrance and sauntered back to Manitou station. Invigorated by the experience, the prayers and hymns were actually more spirited and louder during the return procession. Recounting the events of the day on the train ride home, everyone (despite the sore muscles) was clamoring for more. A resounding success, I see a bright future for the Juventutem NYC.  
Tympanum inside the Byzantine chapel
~ Giovanni di Napoli, September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

* Ant. May the almighty and merciful Lord lead you in the way of peace and prosperity. May the Angel Raphael be your companion on the journey and bring you back to your homes in peace, health, and happiness. ~ Blessing of Pilgrims

(L) Large Crucifix by the entrance. (R) Sant'Antonio da Padova candle grotto