Midway through the month of July, over 150 Catholics from across Michigan assembled to complete a pilgrimage to The Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River. Built in the 1950s, the Shrine includes the world’s largest standing crucifix, which towers 55 feet above the earth and is made of redwood. The bronze figure of Our Lord and Savior weighs nearly 14,000 pounds.
Father William Kimball and other priests of the Society of Saint Pius X led the pilgrimage. The intention this year was religious vocations—specifically for more young Catholics to pursue religious vocations, particularly to the priesthood.
The pilgrimage started with an outdoor traditional Latin Mass on Saturday morning followed by a light breakfast. From there, the pilgrims set off on an 11-mile journey through the woods, roughly following the Sturgeon River. Along the way, the priests and appointed laymen led the faithful in prayer and in the singing of traditional Latin hymns, while the priests heard the confessions of many participants.
The first pilgrimage to The Cross in the Woods was led last year by Father Kimball with 90 faithful participating. Convinced of the importance of pilgrimages in the lives of the faithful, Fr. Kimball had always sought for Michigan to have its own annual pilgrimage. This year, 150 faithful from all five parishes of the SSPX in Michigan showed up with flags and banners representing their respective parishes, devotional banners to the Holy Family, and signs affirming the sanctity of life.
While the pilgrims were sometimes blessed with the relief of shade and cool breezes on the trail, the sun, combined with 80-degree temperatures and high humidity – not to mention the 11 miles traversed on foot – served as a reminder that life is often full of suffering. Suffering is best dealt with not by complaining or bitterness but endured and overcome through prayer. The pilgrims learned by experience the importance of setting an intention and remembering, like St Paul, that our sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that is to come.