Visitor’s Reflections on the Sanctuary at Lourdes (July 23, 2017)
It is with a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving to Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Bernadette that I share with you the message of Lourdes on my return from that special place of prayer. The Virgin Mary greeted St. Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto of Marsabielle on 11th February 1858 and for a total of eighteen apparitions ending on 16th July, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During these special moments Mary gave Bernadette numerous messages and identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.”
The Blessed Virgin asked St. Bernadette to arrange with the parish priest to build a chapel on the location of the apparitions, and that people be invited to come in Procession, offer prayers and petitions as well as to do penance for sinners. Sixty-three years ago the U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage in response to this plea began by taking small groups of pilgrims from the U.S. and Canada to visit and pray at this holy grotto, and today we continue this very impressive project. I have personally made fifty-four pilgrimages to Lourdes in the past forty years as part of the National Rosary group.
The nineteenth century Lourdes of Bernadette’s time was a small community of a few hundred people and from these simple and humble beginnings we have a town that swells to 5 million annually during the pilgrimage season. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, 2008, more than 6.5 million pilgrims came to Lourdes.
Many people will ask me “have you witnessed any miracles?” My immediate response is to make a distinction between a miracle and a cure. Then I add that every pilgrim, in a real sense, has experienced a cure whether that be in some way physical, spiritual, or even emotional. One would have to have a certain hardness of heart not to return home from Lourdes differently because of the experience. That is what a pilgrimage is all about. That we are open to God’s benevolent love and the pomptings of the Holy Spirit as it moves within us. I thank Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Bernadette for the many special graces which have accrued to me in my past forty years as a result of my sharing my priestly ministry with so many people who have become part of our Lourdes Family.
– Fr. Joseph P. Allen, o.p.
My recent experience in Lourdes was comprised of a number of “firsts”: my first trip outside the continental U.S., my first pilgrimage; and the first time I would not be able to joyfully recount my travel experiences to my mother.
So, instead, I will joyfully recount my experience in Lourdes to you. Where to start? First, my travel companions are, without exception, the finest people I have ever met. Special mention must be made of Fr. Joseph Allen, who made this pilgrimage to Lourdes both possible and beautiful. The French people that we met along the way treated us with much warmth and affection and made us all feel as though we were home, and not in a foreign country. Lourdes, itself, is a beautiful country village, nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains. Lourdes has changed very little since the time of Saint Bernadette Soubirous (January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879), from the cobblestone streets to the
charming village homes and store fronts.
As you can imagine, Lourdes is adorned with many beautiful churches, as well as a magnificent
Basilica. But, of course, the focus of our pilgrimage was the Grotto, where our Blessed Mother
appeared to Saint Bernadette. The Grotto is a natural cave, made from rock. An altar has been placed within the Grotto, so that Mass may, and is, celebrated throughout the day there. Being in a place where our Blessed Mother appeared is an extraordinary experience, which words cannot adequately describe. And, so, I pray that one day you also will have the opportunity to experience for yourselves and imagine the joy of what it must have been like for Saint Bernadette, at the Grotto, being in the holy presence of Our Blessed Mother.
– Michael Silverstein
Our pilgrimage to Lourdes with Father Allen was a spiritually beautiful and peaceful trip. The deep beauty of the daily masses and the candlelight processions, as well as being with people of the same faith from all over the world, was very moving. Having mass in the grotto, as well as Sunday Mass in an underground cathedral with 18,000 people in all different languages, was amazing. And learning more about Saint Bernadette’s story and seeing where she lived was inspiring. Also, our group was wonderful and we had a lot of fun together. The trip made me feel closer to God and renewed my spirit. All in all, the pilgrimage was heavenly!
– Katie O’Neill
When I reflect on the trip to Lourdes a few things rise to the surface. First, a change of heart; seeing so many in wheelchairs and stretchers, and various differently abled people of all ages and races,
swiftly caused a change in heart regarding my health situation. I immediately became grateful for all the blessings in my life and will no longer focus on what I have or don’t have. Second, the idea of service; assisting another person by wheeling them to various sites and activities became an opportunity for me to reach beyond my own self-interest and be aware of and serve another without judgment or reward. Third, the power of prayer; the awesome nature of praying the same prayer with thousands of others in the same place in multiple languages was powerful and moving. Though, I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, this trip has provided me with a focus and desire to know God is alive in my life.
– Charlie Rubino
My trip to Lourdes was an unanticipated pleasure. You are joined and united with people, from throughout the world in faith, mind, and spirit. There are so many services that one does not have the opportunity to engage in on a regular basis, Mass in multiple languages, anointing of the sick, and a candlelight procession with thousands of people. It is a powerful experience to break down all walls and boundaries and experience love for all. Your mind becomes uncluttered as you receive a spiritual gift of clarity and love and our Lord in the present. It is a trip I will treasure, one that I was able to experience it with Father Allen and friends and a new path that I will be able to follow throughout my life.
– Lee Ann Rubino