I have never really understood Marian devotions, so I am rather surprised by my recent experiences in Le Puy. I have had the extraordinary opportunity to go in January, February and April for business at the International Center of the Sisters of St. Joseph. There is a huge statue of Mary that is visible from the center. (See International Center newsletter on the website at http://sistersofsaintjosephfederation.org/node/17 ). You can see it from many places around Le Puy and it is attractively lighted in the evening. This recently renovated statue, made from melted down canons, was once the largest statue in the world, quickly eclipsed by the Statue of Liberty.
I find myself captured and captivated by this statue, which has such great meaning for the town of Le Puy, where the Sisters of St Joseph officially formed and still minister today. I am entranced by the energy, the presence of the infinite, of God, that I find as I walk the streets of Le Puy. From standing at the foot of the statue, to touching the dolman stone in the Cathedral of Our Lady, to watching Martene weave lace, to sitting in the Chapel of St Michel, I know that I am walking where hundreds of Sisters of St. Joseph and Jean Pierre Medaille, who convened the first sisters, and many people of faith have walked.
I cannot explain this strange attraction that causes me to feel this sense of community, of communion with believers of the ages, when I see this statue and walk these streets. It is as if I absorb the faith of others.
I went to catch the first rays of sun hitting the statue of Our Lady. As I came back, I cut through the Cathedral to take a picture from its front steps. Each day, mass is said to launch pilgrims on their walk along "The Way", the Camino of St James Compostella. I came as they were being blessed and sent forth.
This has special significance for me because on my next trip, two sisters and I are going to walk a small portion of "The Way" from St Flour, where it is believed that the first community of Sisters of St. Joseph gathered to Le Puy, where we were officially recognized and formed. Our earliest sisters possibly walked this path, and we three search for that touch with the infinite on that journey. I am surprised by my new sense of looking forward to this wonderful opportunity. Originally, for me, it was an opportunity to hike in the French countryside with sisters I really like. Now I sense that it will be much more and will be a real pilgrimmage.