This was the day our pilgrimage really began! It started off quietly with a breakfast of yummy French croissants before we headed downstairs to see what lay in store for the day.
We spilt into our small groups and went to each of the three hotels. Although there were no official events until later in the day, we knew that many of the pilgrims would want to get out of the hotel and into Lourdes. My group stayed at our hotel before Fr Daniel asked Catherine and I to accompany one of the pilgrims into Lourdes for a walk. The lady was able to walk a short distance, and it was a great opportunity for us to get to know her and to re-familiarise ourselves with the domain and the sites there. We went to the grotto and prayed for her sick nephew for a while, before we went to one of the chapels where there is perpetual adoration. Despite this being my third time in Lourdes, I had never known this place existed before now. It was a beautiful and peaceful chapel, and I really enjoyed being able to spend time with God as He was with us in the Eucharist in the chapel. After a short time of prayer, we headed back to our hotel for dinner.
Once we'd eaten, the youth went down to the meeting room where we had a catechises session with Fr John. He gave us a talk about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Confession, which would be happening the next day. He talked to us about the importance of the sacrament and encouraged us to make the most of the opportunities in Lourdes to partake in this Sacrament.
We then went to the various hotels to take the VIPs to the Welcome and Opening Mass. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael in the Rosary Basilica. After Mass, it was time for the diocesan photo! Everyone on the pilgrimage assembled on the steps outside the Rosary Basilica, and after a lot of moving people and wheelchairs around, the photo was finally taken!
The youth then walked round to one of the smaller areas where we had the youth section photo taken. This was a much funnier experience because with it only being a small group, the photographers were keen to make sure that we were all visible… and we weren't too keen on this!!! It took a lot of shouted instructions in broken English and a lot of cursing in French before they were finally satisfied enough to take the photo! While they were taking the photo, many of the able-bodied pilgrims had gathered round and were taking the photo on their phones. It was lovely to see how proud of us they were and how they were all so supportive.
Once our paparazzi had finished taking their photos, we went to find the VIP we had each been pushing and then returned them to their hotels for the evening meal.
After we'd eaten, we then left the hotel again and headed to an area just outside the domain where ourselves and the other able-bodied pilgrims did the Stations of the Cross on the "high stations".
For those who may not know, the Stations of the Cross are when we meditate on each stage of Jesus' death, from His sentencing to death, to His resurrection. We pray at each station, and think about the suffering he undertook for our sake. The high stations are definitely one of the highlights of the pilgrimage – partly because the stations are so beautiful and so detailed that it really helps you to think about how Jesus suffered for us. Many people choose to walk the Stations barefoot, as a form of self-sacrifice and penance, however I chose not to this year because I was worried that I would damage my feet so early on in the week and I knew I needed to be fit for pushing the wheelchairs!
After finishing the high stations, we again went to the grotto where we spilt into our small groups and just spent a small amount of time there praying in silence.
It was then time to head back to our hotel and go to bed. With the day after being Sunday, we knew it would be the climax of the pilgrimage!