Lourdes Diary 2014
Thurs 17 July/Fri 18 July
After a very long coach journey, we arrived on Friday afternoon in Lourdes. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and settling into our rooms.
In the morning, the youth had ‘Catechesis’. This is when we spend one hour reflecting on certain religious subjects. For example, this morning Father Phil spoke to us about the importance of reconciliation and I spoke to the youth about my personal experience of going to confession, hoping to encourage them to speak to a priest tomorrow during our Reconciliation Service.
In the afternoon, we had our Welcome Mass in St Joseph’s Chapel and I served on the altar along with servers from Lancaster Cathedral and St. Andrew’s, Cottam. After Mass, the Lancaster Diocese photo was taken in front of the Rosary Basilica.
After dinner, we had Stations of the Cross. These are the high stations which are for mobile pilgrims and some people choose to do this barefoot (which is quite painful!).
Today we had the International Mass in the Underground Basilica. Mass was said in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and some parts were in Latin. Although it was quite a long mass, it was incredible to see so many Catholics gathered under one roof, all sharing the same faith. I was touched by the numbers of priests and bishops, elderly and handicapped people and youth and children at the mass; it was nice to know that there are many people like us around the world even though it feels like in our everyday lives, we are the only Catholics in our friendship groups, colleges, workplaces etc.
This afternoon we had the Reconciliation Service, again in the Underground Basilica. There were around 8 priests and we had some time for reflection; this was our chance to truly move away from our sins and allow Our Lady of Lourdes to take action in our lives by calling us onto the right path in life.
At 9.30am, we had the Mass of Anointing at St. Joseph’s Chapel for those who were mentally or physically handicapped. They were able to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and this was a very special mass for them. For the youth, it was a chance to reflect on how we need healing in our own lives.
After mass, Lancaster Diocese had access to the Grotto so that all of our sick pilgrims could go through the Passage through the Grotto. As people go through this passage, they touch the rocks and the rocks are now smooth due to the many millions of hands which have touched them. Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette at the Grotto and it is here that the little girl dug under the rocks and a spring of water appeared. It is this water which has healing powers and Our Lady encourages pilgrims to Lourdes to drink and bathe in this water.
We had Catechesis today, where Father Phil discussed God’s love for us and the fact that in Lourdes this week, Our Lady will be calling us to come closer to her Son through prayer and good deeds.
The Blessed Sacrament Procession followed in the evening. After a reading in 4 different languages, we processed around the Domain and into the Underground Basilica remembering that Jesus goes before us and we should let him lead us.
The youth ended the day with a trip to Bartres, where St. Bernadette spent some time as a child. We visited the church where she used to go and pray often and walked back down to the centre of Lourdes, which took us around 1 hour.
After Mass in the morning in the Notre Dame Chapel, we spent the rest of the day at the Lac de Lourdes (Lake of Lourdes). This was a great day to just relax and admire the views; we were blessed with excellent, hot weather on that day as well! Everyone was there, the elderly and youth, to spend some quality time in each other’s company.
At 9pm we had Holy Hour in the Upper Basilica. It was great to end such a fantastic day with some quiet time with God.
Fairly early in the morning, we had our mass at the Grotto which was shared with the Archdiocese of Glasgow. This was an extra special mass as we were standing in the place where St Bernadette stood and saw Our Lady of Lourdes; this thought brought us all closer to God as we realised how special this place is.
Mass was followed by Catechesis and today we discussed the importance of the Eucharist. Father Phil explained how wonderful this gift from God to us is and so how important it is to attend mass regularly, to experience the blessings of the Eucharist.
Two events happened simultaneously in the afternoon; for the sick pilgrims and some youth there was Rosary on the Meadow and for the other youth there was a trip to Cenacolo. I visited Cenacolo where two men gave testimonies of how they had found true peace in Jesus Christ, the peace they had been seeking in drugs and alcohol and never found in these. It was inspiring to see how these men had been able to change through consistent prayers, donations and help from religious people.
To end the day, we had the Torchlight Procession which was again, an inspiring and touching event. Millions of people had gathered and during the procession we said the Rosary together. It was incredible to hear the prayers we say every day (The Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be) in so many different languages; I was touched by the song we sung between each decade (Ave, Ave, Ave Maria) as although the verses were in different languages we all united in one language as we sung the chorus. A warm feeling passed through me as I heard so many voices singing praise to Our Lady and God and it truly made me feel so lucky to belong to the large family of Catholics across the world.
The Mass of Farewell in the St. Joseph’s Chapel was this morning and we were joined by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who gave us a short message before Mass. He explained that we had been given the light of Christ during our week in Lourdes and as we returned home, we should not hide this light but kindle it and share it with others around us.
At 3pm, there was an opportunity for the sick pilgrims and new youth to visit the Baths and for everyone else we had Low Stations on the Meadow. The Stations of the Cross was led by Father Philip Smith and was great to end our pilgrimage with, as we reflected on God’s unconditional love for us all and how we must never forget this, even as we returned home and began the daily routines of life.
Finally, we had a Farewell Reception with all pilgrims on the trip where we took photos, had drinks together and said our goodbyes.
Fri 25/ Sat 26
We all set off in the morning, people on the flight arriving home on Friday afternoon and youth on the coach arriving Saturday night.