Friday, 28 September 2012

The Cross and Compassion in Lourdes...

Half a dozen of us from the parish had a week’s pilgrimage in Lourdes this week. We were blessed to attend the Traditional Rite of Mass in the Upper basilica on Sunday, and I celebrated our own Mass in one of the side chapels of the Crypt. We prayed our Rosary in front of the Grotto (from the meadow so as not to disturb the supposed silence of the Grotto area itself), attended the processions and went to Confession. But not all was great...why? Well...

The picture you see here is that of a huge Rosary made out of balloons which were let go of one by one so as to "send our prayers up to Heaven". I felt this was nonsense; too reminiscent of the 1970's; all too gooey, all too feminine for my taste. It is beyond me as to why we have to have such childish, emotion-laden gimmicks at the very shrine where Our Lady pleaded for us to “wash in the spring” (the conversion of Baptism and its renewal in Confession), where she pleaded for “Penance, Penance, Penance” and asked that we “Pray to God the conversion of sinners”. No wonder the Church is short of men; such antics do not appeal to the masculine spirit, while a spirit of penance is surely proper to us all...  

Now, I say that a few of us had a week in Lourdes, but the truth is that only some of us did! For those who do not know, I have a measure of Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease, and when I contract a chest infection I tend to come down with a bang. Well, the night before we left, noting all the signs (raised temperature, increasing dyspnoea and a more productive cough) I took myself off to the local Walk-in Centre where I was given antibiotics and prednisone. I thought I would be fine. Not so. Lourdes has a slightly higher altitude and a lot of the streets are inclines, so I did not do so well: in the fight for control of my body the infection and the COPD fared better than I! So I took myself off to the Accuiel treatment room where we discovered my oxygen saturation was low and my lungs very tight (I told them that one -and it was audible to the naked ear, so to speak!) Once I was stabilised the staff sent me back to the hotel -but insisted I use one of their wheelchairs to deal with the inclines. But it proved a significant experience: I was acutely embarrassed at having people move out of my way as I returned to the hotel, and very humbled that those much more ill and disabled than myself showed me so much concern. I got an acute sense that there is a reverence for the sick from the sick as well as the healthy; a feeling that there is a real community among those who are ill. There was an implicit, even explicit, recognition of one’s humanity beneath the person’s illness or disablement that so many souls carry around in their body. “Making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body” (Col.1v24) is palpable in Lourdes. This was perhaps the most graced visit I have ever had in Lourdes, though the kind of Lourdes experience I hope not to repeat for some years to come...


  1. You have my sympathy as a fellow sufferer with COPD. When I go to Lourdes I use Hotel Panorama....very close to St. Joseph gate and very little, but some, incline. You can book direct - on line- and save a lot! I have stayed there many times.

    1. Thank you, Father! I shall bear this in mind...

  2. We just missed you Father Gary as the LMS pilgrimage returned home on Friday 21st September. No doubt you will have read my blog re our trip. Take care of yourself.

    1. Yes, we were hoping you would have an early morning Mass on the Friday with which we could join. Sadly, but it was not to be.


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