SACRED PLACES, PILGRIM WAYS:
A Guide for Catholic Pilgrimages in France and Belgium
by Barry M. Coldrey CFC
(Tamanaraik Press, 2006, 180pp, $24.95. Available from Box 12792, Beckett St PO, Melbourne 8006, tel (03) 9480-2119, email@example.com)
Australia has been Christianised for only 200 years so there are few pilgrimage centres, the shrine to Blessed Mary McKillop in North Sydney being an exception. However, in the British Isles and Ireland spring and summer pilgrimages are popular, as they are in Western Europe, particularly among backpackers, the middle-aged and recently retired.
Over the first four months of 2006, Brother Coldrey was on sabbatical in England, France and Belgium and during that time he visited many sacred places collecting materials for a series of books. This is the first of them.
Sacred Places, Pilgrim Ways commences with an exploration of the idea and purpose of Christian pilgrimages along with an historical overview of these since the fourth century, with the Holy Land and Rome the focus at this stage.
Modern European pilgrimages have been predominantly Marian since Our Lady has made certain places holy for believers through her apparitions. Br Coldrey focuses on Mary's appearances at La Salette, Lourdes, Pontmain, Pellevoisin and L'Ile Bouchard in France; and at Beauraing and Banneux in Belgium.
There are also sections on the appearances of Jesus to St Margaret-Mary Alacoque at Paray-Le- Monial and on the shrines of St Bernadette Soubirous at Nevers, St Joan of Arc at Rouen, St Thérse at Lisieux, together with briefer treatments of Rocamadour, Mont St Michel and Chartres.
The book aims at assisting Australian and New Zealand Catholics make pilgrimages when they are abroad: at any one time, over one million Australians are living or travelling overseas. The British Isles are their most popular travel destination and from London many major centres are easily reached by car, coach or Eurostar.
The book contains abundant information on travel, accommodation and health in France and Belgium as well as on each pilgrimage centre in these countries.
The author provides a broad overview of Church history along with a presentation in layman's language of the theology and status of Christian pilgrimages over two millennia. Maps indicate the location of the shrines described and the traditional pilgrimage routes.
For those wishing to pursue further research, the footnote references and select bibliography offer a handy guide.
This is a most useful book for anyone wishing to make the most of overseas travel that takes in France and Belgium.