I found myself on yet another Pilgrimage. This marked the fifth Pilgrimage I have had the privilege to take. This time my destination was France, with the main focus on visiting many of the places where people have encountered Mary. It was only the second day and I already experienced Mary’s strong presence in this country. The Lord has shown His presence as well.
It was Sunday, the Lord’s day. Our day began with Mass at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. Our group was given the honor of sitting in the front rows of the cathedral. Of course, the entire Mass was in French, so I probably did not get as much out of it as I could have. Nevertheless, it was truly a sacred time and little did I know how significant the Gospel reading would be regarding the events that occurred later in the day.
The itinerary for the day was originally supposed to include a cruise on the river and a visit to the Eiffel Tower, but both events had to be canceled because of the World Cup Final. Since France’s team was in the final, the entire city practically shut down to watch the game. When the match started there was no-one in the city who was not watching the game; people were piling into bars and restaurants. The square in front of the Eiffel Tower was blocked off by military because there were so many people in the square watching the game. Our group of pilgrims ended up splitting into a few different groups depending how each one of us wanted to experience the game. I went with the group who wanted to watch it on the square. Our plan was quickly dashed when we were met by a wall of French Military holding machine guns blocking off all entrances into the square. It was a true miracle that we were able to find a bar with seats right in front of a television. Unfortunately, there were two different televisions playing the game in the bar and our television lagged, which meant that every time someone scored, we knew before we were actually able to see it. By halftime the group had had enough and we returned to our hotel. I honestly don’t know which was more exciting, watching the game or watching people watching the game. As the game ended, the action in the streets grew wilder and wilder. People were chanting the national anthem, jumping on moving vehicles, setting off fireworks and tear gas. In a sense it was beautiful chaos. When France officially won, everyone flooded into the streets and began to march. No one knew where we were going but we marched on anyway. Eventually, my group had to stop and head back to our hotel for dinner, but even as we were walking back we continued to see people coming, all chanting their anthem.
When we reached the hotel and gathered for dinner, we all engaged in intense conversation retelling all the crazy stories. One group saw a gang fight break out, while another saw a parked car completely destroyed because of all the people climbing and jumping on it to see the game. All law and order was forgotten; to be a part of the World Cup aftermath was to be a part of something that has never happened before and will never happen again. France winning set Paris on fire. Witnessing it made me think of the Gospel for the day. Mark 6:7-13 is all about Jesus sending the disciples out to preach the Word of God. The disciples now had their mission, which was to set the World on Fire with His Word. If winning a sports game can set Paris ablaze in such a spectacular way, can you imagine what the world could be like if we all accepted our mission and set the World on fire?