If you read my latest Friday Faves post (if not, check it out here!), you may have seen that I talked about going on pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Some people may know about Lourdes, but for anyone who doesn't, I wanted to share a bit about it, why it is important to me and also why I love it so much! After all, I will be sharing quite a bit about our pilgrimage on here during and afterwards, so a bit of background info is always useful!!
** Before I begin, I would just like to clarify – Catholics do not worship Mary. We honour Mary, as she was chosen by God to give birth to His Son. Places of pilgrimage where Our Lady appeared are important to us as Catholics as Mary helps us draw closer to God, and many wonderful miracles have occurred at the places she has appeared **
A (Brief) Background
In 1858, a young peasant girl called Bernadette was out gathering firewood at the Gave River in Lourdes, France when a beautiful lady in a blue dress appeared to her in the grotto by the river. The lady was holding rosary beads, and asked Bernadette to pray the rosary. When she had finished praying, the lady had disappeared. Bernadette returned to the grotto many more times, (the lady appearing many more times) and she asked Bernadette to ask priests to build a church at the grotto; to drink water from the stream; and to pray for the conversion of sinners. On 25th March, the beautiful lady revealed herself to be the Virgin Mary by telling Bernadette "I am the Immaculate Conception".
Crowds of people visited the grotto every day, observing Bernadette's 'strange' behaviour – particularly when the lady asked her to dig in the soil. As Bernadette did so, a spring of water appeared. This water has been the cause of many healing miracles throughout the years since Our Lady first appeared to St Bernadette, and many people have been cured by drinking the water from the grotto. Starting during St Bernadette's visits to the grotto, many people have come to faith from visiting Lourdes, and from hearing and seeing the many miracles that have occurred there.
My love for Lourdes
This year will be my third pilgrimage to Lourdes, and every time I go, I love the experience more. My first year, I was very nervous and so I don't think I cherished the experience as much as I did last time I went. It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't been how special the place is. The fact that everyone there is there for the same reason – to pray and visit the grotto, to ask Mary to pray for us, and to ask for the healing of the sick.
The whole Lourdes experience is so special and completely unique. Spending 10 days with an amazing and diverse group of young Catholics from my diocese, and getting to know the VIPs (Very Important Pilgrims) – taking them to Masses in their wheelchairs; hearing the amazing adventures they've had in their lives; spending time listening to them, and keeping them company. It is the most incredible and rewarding experience, one that really boosts my faith and brings joy to my life.
While we're in Lourdes, we look after the elderly and sick pilgrims, being there to take them to Mass, and to be their companions during the pilgrimage. Seeing how much the VIPs enjoy the experience and our company is the most rewarding part of the experience, and the grotto is such a moving place that sometimes just the serenity and holiness of the place can move me to tears!!
…And that, my lovely readers, is why I love going to Lourdes so much. We set off tomorrow evening and I am so excited to get going! I can't wait to get to know everyone on our coach, and for our group to bond on the journey there. I'm excited for the VIPs to arrive on Friday, when we can get to work looking after them and everyone getting the most out of the experience.
It may be a little quiet over here while I'm away, but please know that I'm having a fab time and I'll be praying for you all.
Until next time,