An offering by Brother Michael Newman, OH
The word pilgrimage mean to journey to a sacred place. That place in the shadow of the Pyrenees is Lourdes – where nearly 150 years ago Mary the Mother of Jesus appeared to a young girl called Bernadette. She asked that people come in pilgrimage to Lourdes, to pray, to drink and wash in the fountain, and to turn their lives towards her Son in repentance!
Our Hospitaller group began their pilgrimage from places like Halifax and Bradford, Hatfield, Preston and Pentasaph, Billingham, Darlington and South Shields and Welwyn Garden City. So the pilgrimage began as each once packed their cases and got their Euros.
Travelling from airports in Heathrow, Newcastle and Manchester – the pilgrims met in Paris Charles de Galle airport – the French Brothers and co-workers greeted us, and took us across Paris to the Centre for Handicapped people for a fine lunch…and then to Orly airport on onward to the town of Lourdes. Travelling is not easy and a hallmark of our pilgrimage was the way everyone shared the burden…and encouraged each other.
Lourdes was bathed in sunshine for all the week we were there; we joined with the French Brothers, co-workers and the people they served in various activities, prayers, and processions. On two sites in the town we stayed in touch by mobile phone and became good friends.
Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage. Its work is to touch the hearts of the pilgrims and help them refocus. It was a happy week – and at the end of the pilgrim journey back in our hometown, we knew we had been inspired, energised and transformed. And back in our own place we recalled our journey to Lourdes, the journey that our hearts took, and even though we were all very tired on our return – we had learnt a lot about ourselves, each other and that in a real sense, the pilgrim journey had transformed us.
During our pilgrimage we had experienced many things, peace – the powerful Services with thousands of other pilgrims, a real sense of being part of a bigger picture with the Internationality of the town. Fun and laughter also formed part of the experience, Our wheelchair pilgrims and those whom we served were the key people in our group, and they gave us love, trust and fun. Reflecting on our pilgrim journey – we thanked God for each other and our gifts…and for the Lady of Lourdes who asked us to journey in faith.
Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us.