The spiritual treasures of Montreal

When I was studying to be a priest I remember experiencing a call within my call: I was not only called to be a priest, but to be a priest for the Church of Montreal. This was actually quite significant, since my family does not live in this city. A few times I recall asking the Lord, “Are you sure you want me to be in Montreal?” and the answer I always received in prayer was “Your place is in Montreal.”

This got me thinking: why Montreal? So I began to do some research into the living spiritual heritage of my city, and I came to see how remarkable this place really is. This is not merely another dot on the map: Montreal has, in its history, had a special place in God’s providential plan. It was originally founded based on inner locutions of the Blessed Virgin given to Servant of God Jerome le Royer, which is why the first name of the city was “Ville-Marie” (and the official name of the diocese is still Marianopolitana). It has found itself at the centre of the great issues of modernity, and made an important contribution to the Church in the world. Today it struggles against the waves of secularism and anti-clericalism, waves which sometimes seem so much more intense here, but the Holy Spirit continues to call the people to holiness. It is actually quite exciting to be a priest here — you feel you really are on the front lines of the Church’s mission.

One of my great pleasures is to welcome visitors to Montreal, and to share with them this spiritual heritage. When Secret Agent Man came to Montreal last year I had the honour of giving him a bit of a tour, and he encouraged me to broadcast even more widely the presence of our religious riches. So I’ve been working on preparing a list of things to see and do for people who would like to come to Montreal on pilgrimmage, to take a dip in our spiritual waters.

The four basilicas

Montreal is blessed with 4 major churches that have received the honourary title of “basilica” from the Vatican. These are:

Shrines of the saints

Montreal has a large number of local Saints and Blesseds buried in and around the city, as well as many centres devoted to promoting the causes of other Venerables and Servants of God. These include:

Other churches, museums, and sites of interest

It would also be possible to visit many other stunning churches in the city, many of which are described on this website for Quebec’s religious patrimony. There are also many Eastern Catholics in Montreal, so a visitor could immerse himself in the various Eastern liturgies without having to go far at all! Heck, we even have a vibrant Congolese community — and the Zairian Rite is something to experience.

Day trips from Montreal

The above list is only for sites on the island of Montreal itself, or just across one of the bridges. But if you are willing to drive a bit, so much more opens up!

Quebec City

Quebec City is another treasure trove of Catholicism, and it is only 3 hours from Montreal. Generally, a visitor to Montreal would then take 2 or 3 days to visit Quebec and take in all the religious richness, which includes:

A dream of mine would be to form a group of catechesis and spirituality that used these various shrines and centres as the basis for helping people grow in their Catholic faith. Visitors to Montreal, as well as residents, could visit these places guided by people trained in more than just the history: the visit would truly be a time of prayer and meditation, as well as formation in the Christian life.

In the meantime, though, I’m always happy to show people around! So many of these riches are still little known, and I’m always glad to share the wealth. Should any locals want to get a group together for a pilgrimmage, or if any of my readers should be visiting Montreal from elsewhere, let me know and we’ll see if we can’t set something up for you!