Br. Joseph de la Joie, CSV, just wrapped up a yearlong assignment welcoming visitors to one of the oldest Marian shrines in the world: Our Lady of Rocamadour in Southwest France. This young Viatorian brother professed his first vows in 2019 in Rodez, France and he now returns to begin his next assignment working with young students.
However, his year meeting pilgrims, he says, will stay with him. The shrine is located on the side of a cliff, near the city of Toulouse, and dates back to the Middle Ages. According to legend, a hermit, Saint Amadour or possibly Zaccaeus from the Bible — lived in this rocky cave along the slope of the cliff, and was devoted to Mary. Much later, a small statue of a black Madonna was placed in the cave and thousands of pilgrims have traveled to the spot, praying for her intercession. The shrine takes its name from ‘roc’ and Amadour, or Rocamadour, and draws one million visitors annually.
During the summer months, the pastor of the shrine invites young men to come to Rocamadour and serve as hosts. Br. Joseph was invited as one of them after he first visited the shrine in 2019.
“Our mission is to welcome, listen to and evangelize tourists and pilgrims,” Br. Joseph says. “The bishop of the diocese asked me to stay there for a longer period than two summer months. The provincial agreed and that is why I stayed for one year.”
During the year, Br. Joseph acted as somewhat of a spiritual guide, telling visitors the history of this sacred place while helping them deepen their faith. Some visitors, he says, became real pilgrims.
Br. Joseph also helped with planning liturgies in the chapel and training altar boys, but mostly visitors found his joy contagious.
“Thank you for your joy, your love and your openness,” they told him. “We need it so much today.”
As for Br. Joseph, he found his year at the shrine to be one filled with grace.
“Tourists and pilgrims often say that when you leave the place, you are not the same as when you arrived,” he says. “The motto of Our Lady of Rocamadour is, ‘Be rooted in rock.’ That is a message I will never forget.”