Lourdes to Paris and Back Again

Several years ago, on a solitary pilgrimage to France, I spent an afternoon sitting before the Holy Grotto at Lourdes and praying upon the many, many petitions that I carried with me in two great manila envelopes. I was very much moved by my parishioners’ expressions of faith in, and love for, Our Lord and Our Lady. Each of their notes and letters, signs of interior devotion, was attentively left at the special place designated for such messages within the Grotto itself, just a few feet away from where the Virgin had stood and St. Bernadette had knelt during the apparitions of 1858. Lourdes never fails to inspire. There is such a tremendous outpouring of love and charity here that no one can honestly deny the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.

The Visionary, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.

One night, after the iconic candlelight procession, I encountered a Chinese couple named Kang and Yan. They had been enticed away from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the mystique of Lourdes. The husband had been exposed to Catholicism in Hong Kong but was a non-Christian. His wife, Yan, came from mainland China, just next to the North Korean border. She actually showed me on her iPhone a fascinating photo that she had taken of the People’s Paradise from across the river that separates her Chinese hometown from that de facto nation prison camp. Her parents are Communist Party members and she was raised in an atheistic home. But she was deeply moved as she stood before the Holy Grotto. Kang could not cease commenting about the evident power of Lourdes, and aptly noted that the countless volunteers who care for the sick are in a way proof of the veracity of the apparitions.

During my stay I was lured away by beckoning friends to spend a few days in Paris, although I was reluctant to leave Mary’s peaceful enclave in the picturesque Pyrenees mountains. The “City of Light” is a looming magnet and is the heart of the revolutionary engine of 1789. Still, I took the slow train to Bordeaux and then the lightning-fast TGV northwards to Paris and plunged into the secular arena.

The peasant’s veil and shoes St Bernadette wore during the apparitions of 1858.

Arriving, I walked out of the Montparnasse train station and was quite surprised when the first thing I heard was a plaintive call, “Bonjour, mon Père,” I turned to see a young Frenchman looking at me hoping for a few Euros. Yet he was not typically bedraggled (at least not outwardly). We began to chat and I encountered a life that had spun out of control and was caught in the web of disorder. Hunger made its imperious demands and he was in the humiliating state of holding out his hand for help. I asked if he would like a blessing, and he responded, “No, I am an atheist. I have seen too much suffering to believe in God.” I repeated my offer, this time looking more intently at him. He paused, then with bowed head, said, “Oui, mon Père…” My trip thus began by blessing an uncertain atheist in the streets of Paris.

On the steps of the glorious church of la Madeleine a very distressed young Frenchman frantically approached me. He wore a beard and a longish topcoat that gave him the appearance of a 19th Century rationalist. He told me of his alienation and despair. For a moment he began to ramble about Nietzsche but then desperately asked me if God really exists. It was another moment of unexpected humanity and Christianity. I put a few coins in his hand and laid my own upon his head in blessing.

I will always wonder if his presence on those church steps revealed the Hand of the Good God drawing him away from nihilist darkness towards the Light from Light.

Back safely at Lourdes again, one fair morning I found myself standing alone in a little park before a statue of St. Bernadette. But I was outside of the “pilgrim zone” of the village. Suddenly I was approached by a different sort of Frenchman. He must have seen his opportunity to pounce since I was isolated for the moment from the protective pious throngs. At first, I could not catch his slurry patois, but it was evident that he was an anti-clerical and was berating our Holy Religion. I wanted to be sure I understood him before I responded, so I explained that I was not French and could he speak more clearly, s’il vous plait. He said with obvious disdain, “What are you then, Italian?” Taking that as the one compliment I’d get from this unpleasant encounter, I nevertheless answered, “Je suis américain.” At this he bellowed, “C’est pire!!” (That’s even worse!). And then a new torrent of abusive language poured forth.

Now here I must interject that being Catholic and American is something I thank God for every day. The virtue of patriotism demands at least that of any man. For patriotism, love of country, is an essential ingredient to uprightness of character. Even more so is love of our higher country, that indefectible Kingdom of God which is the Church of Christ.

Patriotism is not quite nationalism. It is a moral virtue akin to filial piety writ large. Patriotism does not despise the patriotism of another country. Nor is patriotism naïve to the continual necessity of bettering one’s native land and mores. In fact, as an American patriot I appreciate and hope to be enriched by the patriotism of the French. One can have a hierarchy of loves that are not mutually opposed. I am an American patriot, but I also have a deep love for France, along with all that which is good and noble in its people, history, culture, language and religion. And as a Catholic priest, France has a claim on me as La Fille aînée de l’Église (“the Eldest daughter of the Church”).

All this is in my heart and mind. But my apoplectic Gallican interlocutor—un véritable bête noir—apparently had not evolved past brute to the level of authentic human sophistication that would have enabled him to engage in the least modicum of proper human discourse with a stranger. He was a bleak contradiction of all that was noble in his own land. He chose, instead of gracious hospitality, the barbarity of gratuitously assailing someone he did not even know, indeed, a visitor who had come in good will to honor la Belle France and its people.

I said simply in response to his anti-Catholic and anti-American slurs, “C’est pas vrai…” (“What you say is not true…”). His rage boiled over and he began shouting louder. He was losing it. I chose to walk away yet he followed close upon me. I was wondering where this was going to end up because he was menacing me physically at this point. And to be honest, I was asking myself how my old Tae Kwan Do moves could be managed in a cassock, but decided this would produce quite an awful headline. I said to him, “Que Dieu vous benisse,” and made my escape. He roared at me as I turned the corner and slipped out of danger’s way.

This particular member of homo sapiens had really disturbed me, my spiritual force field had been punctured. I stopped momentarily on the sidewalk to consider what had just occurred. I resolved to return to the park, when suddenly before me blocking my way were two kindly, smiling Sicilian faces of an elderly husband and wife on pilgrimage. They greeted me warmly and immediately we were immersed in a lovely conversation about the Faith and Our Lady and all things beautiful and good. God sent them just in time, literally within minutes of a near disaster in the park.

I continued down the sidewalk and headed back to the safety of the Grotto (I needed to talk about this with Our Lady), when I came across an old man begging, yet another gypsy. His name was unusual, something like “Geor.” He was clearly not faring well and needed someone to care that he existed, at least for a moment. We exchanged a few words and I gave him something to help him. Then I blessed him. He took my hand and kissed it and tears welled up in his eyes.

Still contemplating the vitriol to which I had been subjected in the park, I ran into a rotund, avuncular, italianissimo priest, who asked, “Ma che c’è, fratello mio? Che succede?” (What has bothered you, brother?). I told him about the enraged Frenchman who had accosted me. The good Padre immediately took me for a cappuccino and lent a listening ear until my nerves were sedated. His quintessentially “good Italian padre” approach rescued me from my temporary discombobulation. In turn, I had rescued him from the trinket shops—a fair sacerdotal exchange.

This all happened within a space of 30 minutes during my morning walk.

France is a culturally and religiously occupied territory. The destructive spirit of 1789 has to have had something to do with the poison coursing through the veins of the angry man in the park. The very Church of God, which made France great (not perfect) for over a millennium, has been undermined and attacked in this country for far too long. The secular ruling elite have banished the Gospel from public life and horribly twist the people’s perception of what is in fact the best thing that has ever happened to them, viz., their conversion to the Faith.

They are so fanatical about this suppression of Catholicism that they cannot see that only the Faith will be able to save them from the twofold jeopardy of laicisme and islamisme, or whatever it is that is bothering them. Each one of us is created imago Dei—children of God with a destiny in Christ Jesus. Understanding this is key to finding our way out of Europe’s existential malaise, for it is essential to the re-conversion of France to the Faith. And I hold that it can happen.

In the post-Nice, pre-Covidian era there was a heightened worry even in Lourdes that there would be a terrorist attack. Huge concrete barriers have been erected to prevent car bombs or trucks from ravaging the shrine which daily swells up with thousands of pilgrims. The workers there had repeatedly told me they have occasionally noticed strange men in long beards and long tunics, as if they are doing reconnaissance. I myself noticed this one night. And in fact, to some I myself am also a strange man with a long beard and long robe!

In any event, the man in the park (who is emblematic of the militantly irrational secular Left) is truly a tragic, and unarmed figure. Europe is in a civilizational crisis that could be assuaged by shelving Voltaire and revisiting Aquinas. At least that would be a worthy start.

There is so much suffering in the world! It either crushes us or redeems us. At Lourdes, however, there is redemption. This is demonstrated in the vivid scenes of so many sick people endlessly streaming to the Holy Grotto; processing in their wheelchairs, candles in hand; attending Mass after Mass and standing in endless lines for confession and access to the healing waters. All these actions are signs that suffering can wound but need not destroy us. There is always hope beyond the suffering, and we can look toward the example of our Divine Lord and His Sorrowful Mother. Heaven is in solidarity with mankind in our suffering.

I hope and pray that each of us realize the tremendous blessing that is ours. We profess the True Faith, we join together in common prayer before the Altar of God each day, we are enriched by the grace of the Sacraments, we know and love Our Lady, the sweet Immaculate Heart of the plan of salvation. We even know that we are so very imperfect, yet have the faith to be able to see how God’s loving Hand still guides us. There is so much good in our parish life. And there is so much bewilderment and chaos in the world swirling about. Bless the Lord every day for what we have been given and let us never forget how good indeed God is…

Lourdes in its holy splendor.

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, he also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has published articles on bioethics in the Linacre Quarterly and the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.

Featured: “Our Lady of Lourdes,” by Francisco Oller; painted in 1878.

The Italian Street

Several years past I was granted a summer sabbatical in beautiful, sunny Provence. My base was a traditionalist Benedictine monastery where I was privileged to engage in a deep study of the ancient Roman liturgy.
My stay was accentuated by a somewhat fitting element of penance as well, for I happened to be there during a Mediterranean heat wave dubbed “Lucifer.” The unrelenting sun and soaring temperatures resulted in actual forest fires breaking out in the countryside very near to where I would take my daily strolls. My assigned monastic cell had no American-style air conditioning and it was necessary to close the heavy wooden shutters all day in a desperate attempt to stop the withering radiation from heating up the room to cooking temperature. It helped somewhat, I suppose, but the long-term effect was that I ended up baked like a clerical baguette in a monastic oven.

The Benedictines deserve great respect for their penitential lives dedicated to night and day Divine Worship under such hard-living conditions. That said, in short time I was on the road, zipping past Nice and heading Eastward. I broke for a brief visit to the magnificent Principality of Monaco. Pushing on, I was soon safely immersed in the cool sea breezes, culture, cuisine and Catholicism of Italy.

The “Italian Street,” if one might so call it, is a complex, somewhat tricky reality. This is uniquely the case for an American priest resolved to go about the entire time donning a cassock in public.

Many Italians, like the French, have been diminished by secularism. Yet there does seem to endure a particular warmth (or should I say, heat) for the Church. In bella Italia there is still a great deal of openness and friendly love for priests that brings out smiles. Still others appear indifferent but convey a not so subtle message: “Padre, you might think I’m ignoring you, but I am watching you out of the corner of my eye, so you’d better be on your toes! And if you pass the test I’ll buy you a limoncello, d’accordo?

Different than in reserved and sophisticated France, there is a Catholic exuberance in Italy that amicably endures. The towns are absolutely full of churches, sometimes one next to the other. There are charming little shrines to Our Lady on corners, on walls, on pillars, everywhere. And all have fresh flowers before them or perhaps a burning candle in testimony to some anonymous person’s Faith. There are always people at Mass, despite the statistics, and on my particular Sunday in the North that week the seaside church was happily packed.

It is tempting to conclude that an atheist in Italy is really just smarting in the face of the hardships of life. That is a danger for all of us of course. A deceased and famous Italian journalist claimed in life to be a “Catholic atheist.” Towards the end of her earthly tenure she was granted an hours long interview with Pope Benedict XVI. Emerging, she proclaimed him to be the greatest man in Europe. She died, if my sources are correct, with the Last Rites and bequeathed her library to the Gregorian University in Rome. As the saying goes, an Italian atheist maintains that there is no God, and the Madonna is His Mother!

Besides food, art, music, architecture and religion, the wonderful Italians have also perfected cynicism. It is almost an attitudinal art form, especially when at times it is directed at Holy Mother Church and the clergy. If one can stay ahead of this it keeps the conversation exciting. If not, it cuts to the heart.

Therefore, I knew it was taking a risk wandering about as I did. One such street cynic levelled a gratuitous barb at me as I ambled about admiring the elegant palazzi of Florence. He actually stopped square in front of me to score his point with maximal acidic effect. I was taken aback and wanted to be sure I understood, asking, “Signore, tu m’insulti?” (Sir, are you insulting me?). To which he hissed, “Per forza” (Of course!). There was no yelling, just an opportune jab at a priest. It really was that straightforward and uncomplicated.

But I quickly got on top of it, made a mental note of his gratuitous rudeness to a complete stranger, and we parted ways, almost in a business-like manner. I would go further and say that his brazenness was of the kind that quarrelsome family members exhibit. There is, after all, a great deal of operatic yelling in Italy. If a German were to do such a thing one might – well, let’s leave that to the reader’s imagination to decide. At any rate, I intuitively grasped that peculiar reality and saw no reason to engage. Plus, it was time to get an espresso since it was after lunch. There was no time to waste!

Yet another man crazily yelled out above the din as I walked along, “Morte alla Chiesa Cattolica! Viva Giordano Bruno!” I perceived this to be a rather perplexing exclamation, since Bruno is long dead (he was a heretic by the way, so think the details through a bit) and the Catholic Church lives on and on.

Shortly thereafter on the same busy street a man with slick hair pulled back in a pony tail and looking like Di Niro’s character in The Mission materialized in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a teaming crowd, grabbed my arm and yanked me to the side away from the thrall mob of tourists. I was a dead man this time for sure! But there was no stiletto between the ribs awaiting me. Rather, he just wanted to confess, right there in the street! You see, the mean old cynics are mixed right in with those who have genuine devotion. He quickly cancelled out his compadre’s brutishness.

In Genoa a man beckoned from a doorway set in a grungy back alley down which I had taken a wrong turn. He told me straight off how much he loved God, the Church and his parish priest. He was hurting terribly since his father had recently died an untimely death. He showed me the photo of his handsome family patriarch which he carried close to his heart. Italians know how to grieve a death. I blessed him and we went our ways.

As I entered the Cathedral of Genoa, the hometown of Christopher Columbus, an elderly, well-dressed man with the typical Italian balding pattern and sporting an elegant ascot stopped me on the steps. I presumed he had been in the church to pray and perhaps light a candle. But he was tainted by that biting cynicism which kept lunging intermittently at me during that week. He did not greet me so much as go off on a tirade about the “spazzatura” ruining his fair city. It’s an ugly word, and as he said it he pointed to the poor and downtrodden sitting on the church steps eating focaccia, which especially enraged him for some odd reason. They needed a “crack on the head!” he said. Scoffing, he added that the clergy would do nothing about it at all (Voi non fate nulla!)

There you have it: It was my fault and if I were serious about the spectacle on the church steps, not to mention the Gospel, I should go clunk their coconuts immediately! He was so extreme and dramatic that he was almost charming in a sit-com sort of way. I managed to say something reassuring, slipped inside the cathedral and found a glorious side altar where a kindly sacristan set me up for Mass.

In a parking garage as I left the city of Venice I spotted a young man feverishly digging in a garbage can. There were other people about so we could easily have missed each other. Yet we both looked up at the same time and our eyes locked. He was Italian. And he could not ignore a priest walking by, especially since I stopped and said, holding my thumbs to my first two fingers and shaking them up and down, “Amico, ma che fai!?” (My friend, whatever are you doing!?). He was desperate, caught in a complex web of problems partly of his own making, reduced to eating garbage because he could not ignore the elemental urge of his body simply to eat. He was a Catholic. He has a worthy name, it is Antonio. He believes in Jesus but his life is a disaster. Yet there was a brief moment of hope. He bowed his head as I gave him a blessing. We parted ways with his fear filled eyes burned into my heart. We think we ourselves could never end up in a such a state. I wonder though…

Every single day I was repeatedly approached by people begging. Now how is it that some who are evidently cultured are so adept at hurting a priest, even insulting him to his face, whilst the downtrodden practically come to us on hands and knees? I suppose the old bunioned cynic would scoff that the beggar just wants money (perhaps because that is what they themselves love) and sees an easy target in the clergy. Yet that in itself is a testimony to the clergy. The beggars see hope in the priest, even should it be through the confused lenses of their untidy lives.

I took the time to talk to each person who held out a hand. Some were quite dirty, some were horribly deformed, many were immigrants. But did you know that they all have names? They came from somewhere and have fears and hopes just like us, mingled with a torrent of complex problems that have landed them in their humiliating state. They are largely ignored and many told me that they are stung by the indifference of the throngs of people marching by with selfie sticks, Gucci handbags and touristic determination etched grimly on their faces to get to the next cultural marvel. Meanwhile Christ is languishing in the streets. How much more sublime it is to be a pilgrim rather than just a tourist.

In the train station of Florence a gypsy girl with dark brown eyes and braided hair came up to me and we began to talk. The gypsies are often despised in Europe. They are nomads and are quite discomfiting to the comfortable classes. But a gypsy has also been raised to the altars, Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla.

A cynic bellowed, “That’s right, just one!

Thank you, sir, for that contribution. Permit me to continue: the holy gypsy defended a Catholic priest who was being maltreated, which was not quite the fashionable thing to do in 1930’s Catalonia. He was subsequently awarded the palm of martyrdom by his leftist interlocutors.

Now the particular gypsy beggar girl with whom I was chatting had two babies, a husband and a name. And then, with genuine humanity, she even asked me how I was doing. The cynics don’t do that, except to find out if you spent too much on your shoes or something so they can judge the priest for being a phony. She was a Romanian Orthodox. I offered her a priestly blessing which she readily accepted, and with bowed head.

In the same train station an elderly bearded man in a beige tunic then approached me, begging. A few steps away stood watching protectively a burly Italian police officer who looked like Luca Brasi. I nodded to him as if to say “I’m OK, officer, grazie tanto.” The beggar was named Mahomet. He told me he was a Muslim from North Africa. He had great worry in his eyes and written in the lines of his face. He had a family, was weakening with age, had been a laborer but was now unemployed. He felt himself despised in Italy and he was hungry. We talked, and for quite some time. Before we departed ways, I offered him a blessing. He looked at me with uncertainty. I then stated forthrightly, “I am a Catholic priest. I am willing to call down God’s blessing upon you. But you must understand who I am and what I am offering you. And you must say yes freely.” His hesitation changed to resolution, he bowed his head, and said, “Yes, please bless me.” Then, laying my hands upon his head, and invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I imposed a Christian blessing upon this Muslim man in the midst of the packed train station of Florence. There was a pause, and as we parted ways he thanked me.

It happened. The encounter left me marveling at the movement of unexpected grace. Mahomet of North Africa does not know Francis M. de Rosa (with his many and admitted faults). To him I was just an anonymous priest, a man not even of his own kind. But there was a recognition that the priest represented a bit of hope right then and there. This is the power of the Gospel and this is the only true answer to the Muslim situation in Europe. We must show these strange newcomers the greatness of our Holy Religion and we must do so with supreme love and confidence. They too must find Jesus Christ. They too are called to the family of the Holy Catholic Church. On a large scale it is a very complicated matter, of course, and I do not want to be naïve or simplistic. Yet before me for those few moments there stood just a frightened fellow human being, whom age and fatigue and cruel circumstance had ground down to the point where he was forced to beg for bread to eat, in public, before all the hostile passers-by in the grungy train station of Florence.

In truth he needed more than the few coins I spared. He needed someone to look him in the eyes and ask his name. And in God’s Providence I myself needed to do so to encounter our common humanity that groans beneath the weighty woes of life in this Valley of Tears.

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. He also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has published articles on bioethics in the Linacre Quarterly and the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.

Featured image: “Italian Street,” by Dmitri Danish; painted in 2021.

O Canada!

My home, my heart, my kith and kin, are found in Niagara Falls, New York. The mighty River connecting the Great Lakes Erie and Ontario, punctuated by the thunderous cataracts and roiling rapids, forms a magnificent natural demarcation between my native soil and the Dominion of Canada.

Growing up I breathed the air of Canada. Along the Lower Niagara River my family has two abodes that look across the deep green-blue waters towards our great neighbor. I cannot think of home without thinking of Canada.

My earliest memories are filled with innumerable crossings of that erstwhile friendliest and longest unguarded border in the world. My family loved Canada for its English charm and easy going pace. We marveled at its deep lakes, sandy beaches, picturesque villages, ice wine and red sunsets. As a young boy my friends and I could ride our bicycles unaccompanied across the international bridge spanning the fearsome gorge below. There was always a customs and immigration booth to pass through. In those bygone days no passport nor even identification was demanded. It was just a friendly exchange: “Hello boys, how long will you be with us in Canada?” Bygone days in sooth.

At age eleven I experienced my inaugural high adventure foray into the wilds of Ontario. My first canoe trip was with my father and brothers during a rainy yet stunning October to a land speckled with a thousand glacial lakes: the Algonquin Highlands. There I learned how to survive in the forest; to navigate a straight course in a gusty headwind on lakes such as the great Opeongo; portage a heavy wooden canoe on my shoulders for miles and at the end drink straight from the pristine water without concern. In Canada I learned to split wood to reach its dry core, treasure the invaluably flammable paper-thin birch bark and sap of the pine to light a fire with one match in a downpour.

Paddling the virgin lake country, we learned to sing the hearty songs of the French-Canadian voyageurs of old in the very waters they explored and trapped for the Hudson’s Bay Company: Let every good fellow now join in a song! Vive la compagnie! Success to each other and pass it along! Vive la compagnie!

Amongst the sugar maples, blue spruce and silver birch the air was fresh and exhilarating. Along the streams we would traverse beaver dams; and in the grassy shallows of lakes behold the royal moose towering and unassailable. On occasion we would come across the sober warning of black bear tracks. I have heard the howls of wolves in the midnight darkness, and the haunting call of the loon on the misty lakes at twilight. Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where the mighty moose wanders at ease; blue skies and rocky shores, I will return once more…

In the deep sleep of Winter we would head into that forbidding Northland to snowshoe through waist deep powder across frozen lakes dotted with wolf tracks, using shovels and axes to hack through ice three feet thick so as to slake our thirst on the coveted fresh water beneath. Pitching our tents and crawling into double sleeping bags we proved that a man can survive the dark, windy night at 20 degrees below zero. Emerging from those cocoons in the bitter morning air was a test of the will. My brother and mentor, affectionately dubbed “Pierre le Voyageur,” was always first to rise and awake the crew with his uncanny ability to imitate the rooster’s crow, a rather unsettling, slightly charming talent.

In my sixteenth year – unforgettable and defining in my life – Pierre led us on a high adventure canoe trip that commenced 1,000 miles North of my home. Down the Missinaibi River for ten arduous days of dawn to dusk paddling we went, through a terrain of scrappy mosquito infested evergreens that the harsh climate stunted at 15 feet tall. We ended that epic voyage at the river’s tidal mouth as it emptied into the lower reaches of James Bay, near an isolated village named Moosonee. My paddle’s keen and bright, flashing like silver, swift as the wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing…

A dozen trips to Quebec introduced me to the past glory of French colonial Catholicism, holy shrines and the marvel of the autumnal Canadian colors. In the Western Provinces I have beheld the bright sun illuminating the golden wheat of the Albertan Great Plains, the snowcapped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and the lush vales of British Colombia.

On a 2,000-mile trek from the Old Dominion State through Yankee Maine and the picturesque Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, I stood at the magic, towering cliffs of the Bay of Fundy and watched the roaring 20-foot tide rapidly engulf the shore line I had just walked. We followed Le Chemin Français of tragic Evangeline’s Acadie, and ate fresh lobster every day for a week. Sailing six hours across the sea, past breaching whales, we at last reached the Island of Newfoundland, the Easternmost point of Canada and a sovereign Dominion in its own right until 1949.

Northward we journeyed up its Western Peninsula into the sub-arctic climate whereat is located L’Anse aux Meadows and the lost Norse settlement of Vinland. Mountainous icebergs drifted southward in the distance, giant sentinels from far off Greenland. At L’Anse stands a bold and imposing statue of the Catholic Viking Leif Erikson, with leather helmet atop his head and the mighty cross of Christianity on his breast. – the first European to set foot in the New World, fully 500 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Across the strait lay remote, forbidding Labrador.

Canada is a mythic land, a proud member of the vast and vestigial British Commonwealth and the second largest nation on Earth. Yet it is a land whose people have been steadily strangulated by socialism’s ever-tightening grip.

In normal times, most people cannot even identify the Prime Minister of Canada. But history will long remember the infamous name of Justin Pierre Trudeau. He is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Catholic by heritage yet traitor to throne and altar, he has traded the aurora borealis for the rainbow and defended and promoted the corruption of his land via a globalist, pro-abortion trumpeting of the anti-Christian new world order.

Capitalizing upon the tragedy of covid, he and his fellow subversives have ushered in a paranoid and dictatorial regime. Out of a purported concern for the health of his citizens he is crushing them with an iron fist. Exactly how does a thinking man take seriously the assertions of a pro-abortion party that prattles on about protecting human lives? This ideology has dug a moat around a huge segment of society, not only to exclude them from society, but to deny their very humanity and take their lives.

They have dulled minds with marijuana even as they inject bodies with mRNA. The inclusive Prime Minister has been steadily broadening his circle of the excluded; for under the banner of “inclusivity” those who dissent from the Narrative are having their civil liberties systematically eroded.

This societal cancer is in truth international. It is the anti-God and therefore the anti-human party. It demands compliance, acquiescence to government fatwas, domination and control of body and soul – all this in the name of the public health and that ever deceptive inclusivity. Leviathan has been bloated by its exploitation of the plague.

The world watches as an unlikely coalition of Canadian truckers have led a resistance and a straightforward appeal to stop the madness and end all coercive, destructive mandates that do harm even as they pretend to do good.

The reaction of the Prime Minister is revealing and history must learn from it; for he is becoming ever more tyrannical and actually invoked the Canadian quasi-equivalent of a war powers act. He attempted to freeze the bank accounts of Canadian protesters and threatens to pursue dissenters from the party orthodoxy, even those who give aid and support. Disturbing footage immortalizes images of mounted Canadian police plowing through and knocking over political recusants in Ottawa.

Justin Trudeau has apparently lost his mind (or perhaps has revealed it), publicly villainizing those Canadians who oppose his policies as racist, misogynist, extremists, Nazis and sect members. Yet these are his own people.

Against the force of a government drunk on power have arisen the patriotic red-blooded truckers of Canada who are standing up for all Canadians and by extension, for all men born free. Today we are all Canadians.

Canada is the second largest country in the world but has the population of California. It is fair to speculate whether it is being used as a test case to see what it takes to condition a populace for abject compliance. We must take note and be deeply concerned because that same ideological virus is infecting the body politic of our land as well.

As a boy I learned the beautiful Canadian National Anthem attending hockey games when the Buffalo Sabres would face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens in our War Memorial Auditorium. Hearing those two proud hymns sung one after the other in a genuine moment of international friendship has left a deep mark upon my psyche.

The traditional, exquisitely beautiful Canadian anthem contains a prayerful stanza and a chorus that so suppliantly appeals to Almighty God that it verily moves the soul:

Ruler supreme, Who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion within Thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in Thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the better Day,
We ever stand on guard!

God keep our land, glorious and free!
O Canada! We stand on guard for thee! O Canada! We stand on guard for thee!

My friends, now is the time to join Canada’s booming chorus of patriotism, for freedom’s sake…

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, he also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia.