Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Lourdes 4: the Lord's Day

Our recent visit to Lourdes was meant to be a pilgrimage as well as a holiday. The Sunday of our stay was designated a "religion" day.

This began with the International Mass at 9.30 am. The Diocese of Rome were on pilgrimage at the time, so the principal celebrant on this morning was the Pope's episcopal vicar for Rome. I hadn't quite realised that it is possible, each Wednesday and Sunday of the pilgrimage season, to follow the International Mass live on a web stream from the Lourdes shrine's website. It was interesting to see that the Our Father was sung in Latin - and that the congregation joined in with considerable energy. This seemed to me a much better idea than something I have previously experienced in Lourdes, which is pilgrims being invited to pray the Our Father in their own different languages. The undergound basilica was full for Mass, which I think puts the numbers attending at 20 000 people or thereabouts.

After a coffee, we then took ourselves off to pray the Stations of the Cross, using the "high stations". Our timing was good in that there were no large pilgrimage groups praying the stations at this time. One of the most powerfully evangelising aspects of a visit to Lourdes is when you see small groups, perhaps of two or three, following the stations in a prayerful way. On our visit, it was interesting to notice more pilgrims from the far East and the Asian sub-continent, who communicated a particular affection for the devotion of the stations as they prayed them. One or two people were climbing the hill in bare feet .... And, in front of the fifteenth station recalling the Resurrection, we were asked to take a photo of a group of about a dozen Italians, I expect on pilgrimage from one of the new ecclesial movements.

We used the meditations that Pope Benedict, Cardinal Ratzinger as he then was, prepared for the Colosseum on Good Friday in the year 2005.  I had used an adapted form of these meditations in the parish previously, but they were very rich meditations to use, and pray together, in Lourdes.

When we took part in the Eucharistic Procession that afternoon, we waited under the arches by the grotto for the procession to pass, with the intention of joining at the end after the Blessed Sacrament had passed. The procession starts at 5 pm. It was 5.50 pm before the procession had passed us and we could follow on behind the Blessed Sacrament - which gives some idea of the numbers taking part. Again, the underground Basilica was full for the occasion.

The Rosary procession was rather smaller (the Saturday evening procession had, I think, been much larger). We walked it, with the inevitable distractions to prayer that that entails.

My observation to our host at the hotel the next morning was to say: "Nous n'avons plus les genoux".

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