What can I say about Lourdes?

I now have my new favourite place on earth and you will soon discover why!

The last fortnight I wrote part 2 of my 3 part Narrow Gate series based on my very first pilgrimage. I was so blessed to travel with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers and Harvest Journeys to Portugal, Spain and France. It was better than I could have imagined. It was also the very first pilgrimage for Parousia with Harvest Journeys and hopefully, just the first of many more pilgrimages in the near future.

Arrival Day – Rosary Procession

We arrived in Lourdes after crossing the border with Spain and made it just in time for the nightly rosary procession. There it was 9 pm with at least 10,000 pilgrims processing with their candles while peacefully praying the rosary.

I can still hear the vast crowd chanting together between decades “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” while raising their candles. It was such a moving experience I will never forget. To be one with so many people, praying with Our Lady, in such an orderly and peaceful way moved me. To be honest, I got a little emotional as I looked around to see thousands of people, all ages, from all over the world, honouring our Blessed Mother.

I thought how fitting it was to be doing this as it was our Blessed Mother who put the world first, who is now in heaven and deserves all the honor we can give her as the pinnacle of creation.

We gathered at the basilica and then sang Salve Regina which was yet another powerful moment to witness. In all, the procession took about an hour but I must say it only felt like ten minutes. To join in prayer with a multitude of pilgrims from all over the world, in such a peaceful way was very inspiring for me.

There was no doubt, a special grace I cannot describe, a certain spiritual presence, I have not ever noticed in any other place.

Lourdes was unique.

The Grotto at Night

After that procession, we walked over to the grotto and once again to see thousands in silent prayer, and the way the statue was lit up, really drew me in and I just want to stay there all night. After an hour or so we went back to our rooms for the night and got ready to start a new day.

On the second day of our visit to Lourdes we took a special tour of the hometown of St. Bernadette before coming back to the shrine. I was able to see the relics of St. Bernadette which were in a beautiful reliquary. I could somehow feel her presence too. We participated in the International Mass with over 8,000 people in attendance and spoken in multiple languages. How great to feel the universal church come together!

The Baths of Lourdes

Next on our amazing agenda, the baths was where we could immerse ourselves in the cool water from the very spring that miraculously flowed, the very spot St. Bernadette dug up with her hands. Again, I witnessed an equally moving experience!

As you wait for your turn you are instinctively drawn to prayer. Volunteers assist you in entering the baths as they ask you to say a short prayer and take a moment to think of your intentions.

They hold your hand as you dip yourself backwards into the bath. The water was so cold and refreshing as I dipped in. However, when I put my clothes back on I felt completely dry. Somehow the clothes seem to dry, the water on your skin very effectively and I was not sure what to think of this when others previously told me this might happen to me but when I experienced for myself, I was deeply moved.

I also organised a Mass offering for all of you dear Parousia family, and drank water from the taps that are connected to the spring. I was also able to purchase empty bottles with images of our Lady and made certain to fill them up at the taps from the spring.

From the baths we then participated in another rosary procession. This time it felt like more than 15,000 pilgrimages were joining together. I could not help but think that this was the way the rosary should be prayed, gathering people in peaceful procession.

Graces Abound – the Final Day in Lourdes

With an early start to day three of Lourdes, we celebrated Mass with Deacon Harold as the deacon. After Mass we toured of downtown Lourdes, the bakery St. Bernadette’s father worked, as well as some of the beds they lived in. There was also the original house the family grew up in during the time St. Bernadette went to the grotto.

As this was our final day we were so blessed to go to Penance and Adoration as well as participate in the life-size Stations of the Cross. These stations would have to be one of the best I have ever seen.

Deacon Harold led the Stations, praying as we moved along, creating the experience of going up the mountain just like Mount Calvary. The huge, larger than life- size statues made the experience and prayers all the more mesmerizing, and overwhelmingly moving to me in such a new way.

 

Can you see why Lourdes is my new favourite place?

Lourdes has it all, from the multiple Mass times each day in various languages, to the famous water from the spring you can drink and bottle up, the baths that are connected to the springs,  the Adoration Chapel, nightly rosary processions, daily confessions also in various languages, the beautiful scenery, Stations of the Cross,  the walking distances to everywhere and finally to the overall peaceful Catholic environment.

I cannot speak highly enough about this place as there was so much to do and so many opportunities to experience God’s grace through Our Lady.

I hope you have had a taste of my first pilgrimage journey and pray you can one day join me on future pilgrimages.

I posted lots of photos on our Parousia Facebook page: www.facebook.com/parousiamedia

Thanks for your continued prayers!  Thanks too for the prayers for the recent Fighting for the Faith Conference  where we had four amazing and gifted Catholic Answers speakers, Chris Check, Cy Kellet, Tim Staples and Karlo Broussard and may I say they were top class, so dynamic, knowledgeable, professional and filled with so much Joy!

Please keep the prayers coming as we welcome John Pridmore down under again this November!

More soon! God Bless!

Charbel Raish

 

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