The Joy of Back-To-School Season

Social life is given its rhythm by successive periods of work, breaks, holidays and vacations.

Summer seems to be the most popular season for taking a vacation. Here at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, many people took advantage of this period to rest, go on trips, go camping, visit people who live far away, air out their minds, discover new things about themselves, deepen their experience of God, enjoy nature, and more. Now that it’s back-to-school season, almost the entire Oratory team is back.

Professionals, volunteers and members of the clergy all contribute to making this Catholic shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph… a place of openness, gathering and reflection, where the legacy of Saint Brother André shines on. For believers on our team, this is part of a spiritual mission to humbly contribute to God’s work on earth, and especially in Quebec; non-believers, for their part, are driven by civic duty to maintain this legacy so that it testifies to the religious culture of their parents. We all experience deep, inexpressible joy from working at the Oratory, following in Brother André’s footsteps, to welcome pilgrims and visitors of all languages and cultures in a spirit of openness, faith, and compassion.

For this 2019-2020 back-to-school season, we hope our deep joy will be contagious at the Oratory. Let us recall Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, visiting the tomb of the Crucified One after receiving the angel’s message: filled with great joy, they ran to bring his disciples word. (Matthew 28:8). This same joy; the joy of the mission; the joy of greeting each other each morning when coming into the Oratory, with a smile, with a kind look; the joy of sharing tasks within the mission; the joy of mutual help and patience as we accomplish our duty; the joy of living with open hearts and minds—that is the joy we wish to experience and share with each of our pilgrims.

Our joy of being in Saint Joseph’s house is not burdensome or restrictive. It is natural and leads us to personal and shared freedom. As Brother André said: “Let us never be sad; we should be cheerful without ever hurting others.” The visitors and pilgrims coming to the Oratory—some of them sad, worried, pessimistic, suffering or sick—once they see us, once they hear us, once they meet us, they will leave cheerful, happy, serene, optimistic, healthy, cured.

Joy is found within each of us. It is like a treasure sleeping in our depths. Let us not keep it boxed up. As fall begins, we should let it suffuse our presence at the Oratory so that the house of Saint Joseph remains a cultural and spiritual haven whose doors are open to all human beings. Happy back-to-school season!