After a very chilled day on Tuesday, it was time for the most jam-packed day of the pilgrimage!
The day began as always – with Catherine and Rach enjoying a brew and the three of us trying to fill up with as many croissants as we could get away with!! It was a later start to the day, with Mass only at 10am, and so we were able to have breakfast a bit later than previous days.
That morning, the Mass was for Vocations and it was a lovely occasion because Fr Daniel, the leader of the youth section and Lancaster's brand-new priest gave us the homily during Mass, as well as his first blessings afterwards. His homily was great – as it was the feast of Ss Joachim and Anne (Our Lady's parents), he talked about how the family is the centre for vocations, and how his ordination shows how the diocese's prayers for priests are being answered.
After Mass, we took our pilgrims back to their hotels for lunch and then it was time to head out again to pray the rosary at the grotto and take the sick through the grotto in their wheelchairs. I really enjoyed this time, and I loved being able to take my rosary beads I'd bought in Rome to the grotto of Our Lady in Lourdes. I was sat with Ellie and one of the diocese's younger pilgrims who I know well from previous Lourdes pilgrimages. She didn't have much experience of praying the rosary, so to be able to guide her and see her start to pick up what we prayed was a really beautiful experience.
After the rosary had finished, I took my pilgrim, Frank, through the grotto in his wheelchair and we then went to a nearby cafe with Rachel for a glass of Fanta. We had a lovely couple of hours chatting and him telling us about his wife, children, and many of the adventures he'd had in his life. This is always one of the best parts of the pilgrimage – being able to take time out to get to know some of the VIPs, and to hear about their lives.
After taking Frank back to his hotel, we then went back to our own hotel for tea before leaving once again for the torchlight procession. Ellie and I were able to walk together, and push the wheelchair as a tag-team during the procession.
As it was Ellie's first experience of the torchlight, it was great that she was able to walk along for part of it, and be able to just take it all in without having to think about pushing the chair.
The torchlight procession is always my favourite part of the pilgrimage, and this year was no exception. The whole atmosphere is just so beautiful – really prayerful and the fact that each decade of the Rosary is prayed in many different languages truly emphasises how international our faith is. I absolutely loved it!
Once the procession had finished, we went back to the hotel and some people went back out for an ice cream, while most people stayed and relaxed together with some of the VIPs and priests in the hotel foyer area before heading to bed soon after.
[To be continued tomorrow…]