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The Mont-des-Cats Canadian Memorial

Sixty thousand Canadian soldiers died in France during World War I. The various governments decided that these heroes deserved more than a small patch of wasteland. The brave fallen soldiers have been laid to rest in well‑maintained cemeteries. Magnificent monuments, such as Vimy, serve as a reminder of their heroism.

Cemeteries and monuments are tangible ways to honour the dead.

In 1930, it was decided to show this honour in a spiritual way, and so the Ligue du Souvenir et de la Prière [League of Remembrance and Prayer] was established at the Mont-des-Cats Canadian Memorial.

The purpose of this League was prayer and penance for Canadian soldiers who died in France during the war, and for their comrades from France and the Allied forces; ceremonies organized in memory of the deceased members of the Canadian Army were held at the Abbaye Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, by the Trappists who have been there since 1826 and who have become—according to official acts that have passed—ministers of prayer and perpetual remembrance. This secular Abbey, which sits above many Canadian and Allied cemeteries in the region, has become a place of pilgrimage.

Cistercian Trappists, whose monastery was bombed in 1918, accepted the nomination of “Aumônerie des morts de la guerre” [Chaplaincy of the War Dead]. They became the chaplains of the League.

At the entrance to the Abbey, a large marble plaque was erected, dedicating the monastery to these valiant fallen soldiers.

Twelve other smaller plaques recognize the main battles fought by Canadian soldiers: Passchendaele, Festubert, Hill 70, Amiens, Cambrai, Valenciennes, Arras, Vimy, Courcelette, Somme, Mont Saint-Éloi, and Ypres.

In the monastery at the entrance of the Abbey, another marble plaque reads:

À la glorieuse mémoire des soldats canadiens, français et alliés tombés au champ d'honneur. Accordez-leur, Seigneur, le repos éternel! [In honoured memory of the fallen Canadian, French and Allied soldiers. Grant them eternal peace, Lord!]

It stands in the very centre of this house of prayer, a great thought which summarizes the sacrifice made and represents an ex-voto from the Canadian Catholic church to its brave fallen children.

From 1930 on, the Ligue du Souvenir et de la Prière grew quickly. Cardinal Rouleau had agreed to be their spiritual leader. The League’s founders included former commanding officers of the 22nd battalion as well as political, religious and military figures. In France, these individuals included Cardinal Verdier, Cardinal Liénart, and Marshal Louis Franchet d'Espérey.

Taking the role of intercessor to heart, the monks at Mont-des-Cats fulfilled the League’s purpose to the letter, namely, to pray for fallen Canadian and Allied soldiers. In the vast silence of the cemeteries, they sang out the liturgy. Each night they sang Salve Regina, specifically for the intentions of the League.

In a document given to the clergymen of the Abbey on June 14, 1933, His Eminence Villeneuve along with bishops and other prominent figures, wanted to recognize, on behalf of Canadian Catholics, the work accomplished by the founders and recalled the greatness of the sacrifice, and its pious and perpetual remembrance.

Later, 35 bishops from Canada joined the League, which has thousands of Canadians members.

“The Mont-des-Cats memorial is the militant Church to aid the suffering Church. It is the prayer of all those who have faith and believe in the resurrection. We are them. From afar, we must stand guard with the light of the Blessed Sacrament, the small sanctuary light. This is all that our powerful intercessors, the Trappists of Mont-des-Cats, ask of us.”
Taken from Le Bien Public newspaper – Dec. 3, 1936
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