If I thought that Sunday had been an early start, I was not prepared for Monday!!!
We had Mass down at the Grotto at 8:30am with Welsh National pilgrims and also some from Galway and so we had to be ready to leave the hotel by 7:15am in order to process down to the Grotto. My small group was also on breakfast duty and so we had to be up and awake for 6:45am in order to help escort the VIPs down from their rooms to breakfast.
We managed to get a couple of minutes to scoff a croissant (or two!) before we assembled in the hotel garage to begin the procession. At this point, a few of us didn't have a wheelchair to push. One of the brancardiers (men who are there to ensure the pilgrimage runs smoothly, solve any issues and just great helpers in general!) asked if Ellie and I would carry the diocesan banner. This was obviously a great honour for us both, as the banner leads the procession, and also lets everyone know that we are Lancaster Diocese!
So we processed down to the Grotto, and Ellie and I took our place with the banner beneath the rocks of the grotto. Before Mass began, we had a nice chat with Paddy and Charlie, a couple of elderly men from Galway, who were carrying their banner. When we told them we were from Preston, they immediately started talking to us about Preston North End Football Club (who have recently acquired a few players from Ireland) and we were all able to have a good chat about football before Mass.
Grotto Mass is always my favourite Mass of the pilgrimage, however this time, it wasn't as great as usual! This was purely because it started to pour down with rain as Mass began. Although Ellie and I were sheltered by the rocks of the grotto, the other pilgrims were not so fortunate, and most people ended Mass absolutely soaked!
To go with the accidental water 'theme' of the day so far, it was time for the registered sick pilgrims to be taken to the baths. The baths are a really special place in Lourdes, as Our Lady instructed St Bernadette that people should come and bathe in the water of the spring. The water of the baths has had many healing effects on people who have pilgrimaged to Lourdes over the years. After we had escorted the pilgrims to the baths, Ellie and I carried the banner back to the hotel where we had a few hours to relax, eat lunch and dry off before we had to go back out in the rain!
After lunch, we had our final Catechesis session with Fr John. This time, we talked about the Sacrament of Anointing, which was to take place the following day. Fr John reminded us that the Sacrament was only for those who were potentially nearing the end of their lives, whether this be due to old age or ill health. He encouraged us to pray at Mass the next day for those being anointed, particularly for the pilgrim we had pushed to that Mass.
After this, he told us about how we would still have the opportunity for healing, despite not being eligible for the Sacrament ourselves. After Catechesis, we would be heading to the Blessed Sacrament Procession, which concludes with Adoration in the Underground Basilica. Fr John told us how at this time, when we were face to face with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we could ask Him them for His healing for ourselves – whatever we needed healing in our own lives.
After Catechesis, we again had an hour or so to ourselves before we got ready for the Blessed Sacrament Procession. It was a real shame because the rain hadn't died down, and so the procession had to be moved into the Underground Basilica. It was a really lovely and prayerful time, and made me even more excited to go to Youth 2000 where there is perpetual Adoration!
After the procession, we headed back to the hotel for tea and then joined in with night prayer in the hotel. We had a bit of time to relax after that, and then we headed to the grotto where we had a good period of time to walk through the grotto and pray there. As we walked back from the grotto, we were all suddenly hit with exhaustion after the day's early start, so it was time for bed!!
[To be continued tomorrow…]