On Saturday, May 5th, the Franciscan University and LCI students and staff participated in a walking pilgrimage to the well-known site Mariazell. Most of the students did a shorter version of the hike, which was still about 10 miles, and a handful of people did the traditional Gaming route which was about 18 miles. Being that this was a pilgrimage, we all had our personal intentions to bring along the way as well as a common intention for an end to abortion.

Mariazell is a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Mother. The history of it begins in 1157, when a monk was sent to the area to evangelize. When his way was blocked by an enormous rock, he set down the Marian statue he had brought with him, whereby the rock broke apart and cleared the way. On a nearby bank, he settled down, placed the statue on a tree trunk, and built a cell out of wood, which served as both his chapel and his living quarters. Since then many miracles have occurred. The Austrians and pilgrims from many other nations pray for their loved ones here, and truly entrust their needs to Mother Mary.

One of our group, Professor McNamara, from Ireland, shared about the situation in Ireland in regards to the prolife movement. On May 25th, Ireland will vote on whether to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution–this amendment protects the life of the unborn. If the vote passes, Ireland will be the first nation to vote in a permissive abortion regime by popular vote, and one of the few last nations that strenuously prohibits abortion will have capitulated to the culture of death.

Throughout the hike, my group prayed, talked, had some silence, and took in the beautiful scenery. The weather was rainy, but then it cleared up and the sunshine was wonderful. We arrived at the Church with enough time to have some ice cream and met up with students that hadn’t hiked, but had come for Mass. The homily Fr. Jonathan gave was perfect. He reflected on how a pilgrimage is difficult at times, and that it should be more than just visiting a pretty Church. He also encouraged us to take what we learned on the hike and this whole semester and keep it with us. He asked, “What will we take with us when this semester ends?” The semester will end very soon, but I pray and hope that we can all take the encounters we’ve had with the Lord, Our Lady, and this beautiful community with us in some way.