Pilgrimage to Avignon

Thursday 20th September 2018

Pilgrimage to Avignon - September 2018

AvignonIn August 1308, Pope Clement V announced that the new home of the papacy would be Avignon and in 1309 the move took place.  709 years later we are heading to Avignon to find out about this extraordinary period of history and to discover more about this beautiful area of France.

Sunday 23rd September

Change. From the wet and cold weather of Stansted to the bright sun of Avignon.  We also have journeyed back in time to a city where the ramparts date from the 14th century and everywhere you look medieval buildings in a warm yellow stone greet your eye.  After everyone arrived safely old friendships were rekindled and new ones were started.  Fr Norbert celebrated Mass in Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms d'Avignon in a chapel with a depiction of Jesus breaking bread with the two disciples in Emmaus.  Fr Norbert reminded us that as we go through this week, we are on a journey with Jesus walking beside us. That every member of the group has something to share with the rest of us and that like Jesus we will be transfigured; changed by the experiences that we will share together.

Avignon CathedralEmmaus paintingDeaf group Avignon

Monday 24th September

Our day started with Mass at the Cathedral once more. "Do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it" the opening of our first reading today.  Fr Norbert encouraged us all to be a light in other people's lives, to show kindness.  Just as Jesus is the light of the world we can all be a light in someone elses darkness.

The afternoon brought our guided tour of the Palais du Papes, two buildings that have become the one place that we know today. The old palace was built when Benedict XII was Pope is the much simpler part reflecting his own calling as a Cistercian monk. The newer and more extravagant part of the palace having been built under the rule of Clement VI.  We finished the day by a visit to the famous bridge with the equally famous song "Sur le pont, d'Avignon" which was originally composed by Adolphe Adam and was sung in a play called The Deaf Man.

Avignon CathedralPont d'AvignonLunch in Avignon

Tuesday 25th September

A day full of culture and beauty.  We headed out this morning to Aix-en-Provence and Fr Norbert celebrated Mass for the group at the Cathedral Saint Sauveur.  Fr Norbert reminded us that like the people in today's Gospel reading we are all seeking Jesus in our lives. Maybe some of those visiting the Cathedral today will remember this morning on their faith journey of seeking Jesus. The whole of our group were signing the "Alleluia" together which was a powerful witness to those who experienced it. After time in Aix we travelled to the home of Paul Cezanne and visited his studio, the studio he designed himself to make the best use of the light that flooded into the room.  From there we traveled to Lourmarin, the birthplace of author Albert Camus, a beautiful village for a short stroll and time for an ice cream before heading back to Avignon. 

Aix-en-ProvanceAt Paul Cezanne's HouseLourmarin

Wednesday 26th September

"So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere."  Jesus sent his apostles into the unknown.  They took nothing with them but each other as they went out in pairs.  They had each other for support. We too in our group have each other for support. For some in the group we have stepped into the unknown by joining the pilgrimage but by this point in the week we all know that each of us walks with others by our side; we are here for each other.

After Mass we headed to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and after a spot of wine tasting we visited the place that was once the rarely used summer residence of the Avignon Popes. From our lunchtime restaurant next to the old chateau we had an amazing view back down the Rhone Valley and could see all the way back to Avignon.

From here we travelled to Orange to see the impressive Triumphal Arch and then on to the equally impressive Roman theatre which King Louis XIV was reported to have said had the best wall in France. The day ended with the light show Vibrations in the Honour Courtyard at the Palais du Papes. The amazing lights created pictures and atmosphere that was like falling into a storybook.  An amazing end to a brilliant day.

Wine tastingChateauneuf du PapeVibrations

Thursday 26th September

We headed out early today to the Abbey of Senanque a beautiful tranquil place near the town of Gordes. Still inhabited by 7 monks this is a place of true peace. Although not lavender season there is still an aroma in the air and the simplicity of the buildings tell the stories of the history of this oasis of calm. We had Mass in the Winter Chapel and as we remembered today St Vincent de Paul two of our group shared their experiences of working with the SVP the charity set up in 1833 by Antoine Frederic Ozanam who followed in the footsteps of St Vincent de Paul by serving the poor.

After a lunch stop at Beaume de Venice we ended the afternoon at Vaison la Romaine. At the Cathedral, Notre Dame de Nazareth, capitals and parts of the Roman columns could be clearly see at the base of the Cathedral wall where those who built the Cathedral had used the stones and remains of the Roman buildings to construct it.

And so to our last evening together. As is traditional on these pilgrimages we had an evening of a shared meal and shared fun which had started earlier in the day by our guide Marc singing to us on the coach as we headed back to Avignon.

Mass SenanqueAbbey of SenanqueSocial in Avignon

Friday 28th September

And so our pilgrimage draws to a close. At Mass this morning Fr Norbert highlighted part of the first reading that there is a time for everything. This week we have certainly had a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to enjoy each others company, a time to be filled with wonder and maybe now as we depart a time for sadness and maybe a tear or two. But what we also have is the knowledge that the time we have spent together this week has in so many ways been a time of abundant blessings.

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