The sacred smell of incense filled the air at Mission’s Fraser Heritage Park as the annual Pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was held Aug. 18.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, was the principal celebrant for the 1 p.m. Mass. The event, organized by St. Joseph’s Parish in Mission, has become the largest annual celebration in the archdiocese. 

During the homily, Archbishop Miller discussed how Mary’s assumption into heaven was a unique privilege. He examined the intimate bond that Jesus had with his mother, which continued throughout both their lives to the point where her body was saved from the corruption of the grave.

“When Mary fell asleep in this world she awoke, we could say, in heaven,” Archbishop Miller told the crowd.

“God gave her a full measure, a full share of the destiny of Jesus.”

From the Assumption, Catholics can know two things, the archbishop said: the first is that our ultimate home is with God and our life’s pilgrimage will take us there.

“Death is not the end but the entrance into a life that knows no end.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, (centre) with Knights of Columbus and other organizers.

The second lesson for Catholics regarding Mary’s destiny is the plans that God has for the human body.

The body “has a dignity that was meant for eternity.”

Catholics can also take comfort in Mary’s company during their journey, he said.

“Because she is raised in glory and lives with God and in God, she can be close to us,” Archbishop Miller said.

“She is the mother who listens to us, is close to us, and takes us by the hand.”

Felisa Quimada has been attending the pilgrimage for about 18 years and said she liked that it was so close to her Vancouver home. She added that little had changed over the years.

“Every Rosary they used to take one balloon and float it up,” she noted, referring to a balloon display in the shape of a Rosary set up in front of the Grotto.

Marcelino Mocon has been attending for about 10 years and this year, as a member of Couples for Christ, he and his wife were singing at the event.

“We are devotees of Our Lady. We believe in her intercession. We pray for her. We say the Rosary. My parents are devotee of Our Lady too. We just believe in her role as the mother of our Lord, and he is the best example of a servant because he is the first servant of the Lord.”

After Mass at the gazebo, the crowd processed up the hill to the grotto, the oldest Marian shine in B.C. Pilgrims recited the Hail Mary during the pilgrimage, which took about 30 minutes to move from the park to the top of the hill.

The pilgrimage is held on or around the Feast of the Assumption and usually draws about 3,000 people.