Today was a peculiar day! Because of threatened strikes at Lourdes airport it had been decided to end the pilgrimage today as contingency plans had to come in to play and we were looking at an early start on Friday to Bilbau airport in order to get home!
This meant that the scheduled Thursday Mac Mass was cancelled, the Reconciliation Service was brought forward to the morning and the Closing Mass of Friday was brought into today. So at 2pm we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart a day early and celebrated our Closing Mass a day early.
However, it then happened that the air traffic control strike was cancelled so we were back to Plan A as far as flights were concerned and now we have the Mac Mass tomorrow morning at 10am. So a bit of a topsy-turvy day and a topsy-turvy end to an otherwise perfect schedule!
The Closing Mass was streamed live and is available on this webpage
9.30 am The International Mass has begun in the massive underground basilica.
Live coverage will resume for the homily, to be given by His Grace, Archbishop Bernard Longley and for the bidding prayers.
After the Mass, the rest of the day is free. Some will go on excursions into the mountains others will stay in Lourdes and have a quiet day. For me it was:
Taking in the sites…
And another gentle stroll through the Door of Mercy…
I read something interesting and beautiful whilst I was down at St Michael’s Gate. It was an exhibition of the expressions of Mercy with quotes from St Bernadette and Pope Francis for each:
Mercy is tenderness:
O God of mercy, O God of all consolation, sustain me with your grace. (St Bernadette)
The Jubilee Year of Mercy reminds us that God is waiting for us with open arms, just like the father of the prodigal son. (Pope Francis)
Mercy is service to the poor:
The vocation of he Sisters of Charity of Nevers is precious, because it enables us to serve the poor. (St Bernadette)
Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. (Pope Francis)
Jesus, face of mercy:
If you are sent to a hospital, don’t forget to see Jesus Christ in the poor person and the more repugnant the poor person, the more he must be loved. (St Bernadette)
Jesus Christ is the face of the father’s mercy. Whoever sees him sees the father (John 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God (Pope Francis)
Mercy is forgiveness:
Pray for me, poor sinner. (St Bernadette)
When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. (Pope Francis)
Mary, face of mercy:
She looked at me as one person looks at another. (St Bernadette)
Mary’s entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. (Pope Francis)
Mercy is love:
I want my whole life to be inspired by love. (St Bernadette)
Love can never be an abstraction. By its very nature it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes and behaviours that are shown in daily living. (Pope Francis)
Freya Scott writes of her encounter of the day…
Today we went to International Mass, Gavarnie and had a Concert with the accuiel pilgrims and CJM.
The International Mass is always one of my favourite parts, for many reasons but mainly because we as volunteers, whether it’s your first time or sixth, get to see how strong we are in numbers. Our faith and the faith of so many others like us in different countries around the world are there to celebrate as one community and I believe the underground basilica is just filled with love and joy at that time. Who ever we are and wherever we have come from, at that moment we celebrate the same Mass together along with the people we have come to help, and there is something so poignant in that.
After Mass we went to Gavarnie, a pretty town with extraordinary views. It was my first time there and it took my breath away. The beauty of the mountains was amazing but what made it so beautiful for me was the team. To be in such a beautiful place with so many beautiful souls was a moment I think I’ll always remember. This year has been long, sometimes arduous but most of all it has been full of love and joy in the Lord and I feel for me, as we come to the end of our year, that Lourdes has been a culmination of that.
Kerri Delaney 22, part of the Kenelm Group writes…
The Stations of the Cross is a form of prayer that I least enjoy. Today I prayed the stations for the first time in Lourdes. I actively chose to walk barefoot throughout, the discomfort made me engage with the stations more, as I was fully aware of everything that was happening. The stations in Lourdes are unique in the way they are presented. To me, the larger than life size figure brought to mind frozen images of a film. It was almost as if a movie of Jesus’ walk to calvary was unfolding as I journeyed up the hill. I did not expect to understand more deeply the nature of Jesus as fully God and fully man in a more tangible way. Reflecting on my experience of the stations of the cross has led me to comprehend this more deeply.
It is hard to imagine the love that Christ has for humanity. In taking that step towards the cross, Jesus was able to witness the love God has for us. The cross has ultimately created a path to heaven that we must strive towards. In doing this the power of the Holy Spirit is encompassed within the physical actions of the cross through taking up the burden of our sins, allowing us eternal freedom with the Father. The natural progression of the stations was an expression of Jesus’ desire for us to return to him.
I did not expect to experience the stations in this way, or to come to such a deep theological understanding. An hour of prayer, I wasn’t really looking forward to has unraveled a concept of our faith that I had previously found it hard to relate to. It has made sense of Good Friday and the passion of Christ being a reality. It has lifted it from the pages of scripture and brought it to life.
This morning at 9.15am His Grace, Archbishop Bernard spoke to camera live from the Grotto to the diocese at home. His address is on the website. We were then able to live stream the Mass from the Grotto. The rain kept off and we had a beautiful Mass shared with the dioceses of Middlesborough, Plymouth and Kilmore.
The anointing of the sick took place this afternoon in the Rosary Basilica. This service is always very moving.
After this service the sick were wheeled down to St Michael’s gate for a short service led by Fr Leadbeater and followed by a procession through the Door of Mercy.
Then, two of us decided to go and take a plunge in the baths! The afternoon had taken a sudden turn for the worse, weather-wise, but undeterred we made our way back up towards the Grotto and to the baths. I made this trip last year and said I wouldn’t do it again but having been asked by a friend to accompany her, I couldn’t resist. I’m not quite sure what is achieved by plunging yourself half-naked into a freezing cold bath of water that a few others before you have been through but I do believe in grace and blessings and was very happy therefore to put myself through it again. Plus, I wasn’t very brave last year. I only managed to kneel down in the water and when asked to sit and lie back I could only respond ‘you must be joking’! This year I was determined to do better. And I did! I managed to lie back, offer it up, and contain any expletives unbefitting the situation!! That you can come out and get dressed immediately without drying has to say something about the extreme coldness of the water evaporating on our otherwise warm bodies; but amazing nonetheless. I was pleased that I had been able to go through it again and experience some elation at the end of it. That was a blessing in itself.
I have to really commend the excellent staff in the baths who go about the whole procedure in a very dignified manner and help you at every step to maintain your own dignity despite feeling very vulnerable. They are extremely kind and supportive. I’m not very steady on my feet when I’m barefoot but they helped me every step of the way so that I felt very safe. So, thank you.
Lorretta Salkeld 18, Alton Castle volunteer, writes about her experience as a helper in the baths…
‘Today was my first ever time working in the baths and it was an eye opening experience of another aspect of Lourdes.
‘Being able to help people in such an intimate and caring way was something really beautiful. It helped me to understand other peoples faith, through the depth of their prayer and in their vulnerability. It is the depth of faith I saw in the women I worked with and served that had has really made an impact on me today.
‘Being surrounded by such a passionate team I was helped to feel relaxed and I quickly gained confidence and felt competent in what I was doing.
‘I worked with an group of international volunteers, aspects of which were daunting due to the obvious language barriers. As the day went on we learnt how to communicate with each other in ways that went beyond words. Reflecting as I write this I was struck by how incredible it was to be able to begin to really know someone even though we did not have the words to speak to each other.’
Sadly, the procession through the Door of Mercy was cancelled due to bad weather.
The pilgrimage got underway today at 3pm with a wonderful Opening Mass.
Megan Cox aged 20, Lay Chaplain Cardinal Wiseman Kingstanding writes…
‘So the pilgrimage was about to officially begin and as I watched St. Bernadette’s church fill with travel-weary but elated faces I couldn’t help but begin to realise why I was beginning my fourth pilgrimage in Lourdes. The family was gathering again.
‘Turning around and seeing faces old and new meet, laugh, embrace and take their seats, I started to again, feel at home.
‘On the feast of Corpus Christi, the church was filled with banners, singing and enthusiasm as we embarked on our journey together. I had the privilege of carrying a banner in the opening procession and the feeling I had was one of pride. Proud to be a part of this family, proud to be on pilgrimage in the year of mercy and proud to be serving these people in God’s name.
‘This was the perfect start to not only a half term but also another chapter in our faith journeys. As Bishop David said in his homily “Lourdes is a place for telling and making stories.” I’m excited for the stories to come on this adventure!’
Our next event was the Marian procession at 9pm which was led by the Birmingham Diocese
Jonny Leybourne 21 and a pilgrim with the Kenelm group writes…
‘Today I got to carry the statue of Mary in the torchlight procession. It’s my first time in Lourdes and it is difficult to describe the awesomeness (in the biblical sense) of the experience. After a 24 hour coach journey I immediately presumed that today would have been a difficult day. I could not have been more wrong. Standing in front of 1000’s of people all gathered in prayer was a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
‘At first I was nervous about the pilgrimage, I wasn’t sure whether it would be my sort of thing. The thought of helping sick pilgrims and delving into the prayer life of the pilgrimage seemed daunting. The second I got of the coach those fears melted away. The support and love provided by our diocesan family has already shone through my experience of the pilgrimage so far.
‘I can’t wait to see what the rest the week holds.’
Tomorrow morning at 9.15am His Grace, Archbishop Bernard will speak to all those at home live from Our Lady’s Grotto prior to a diocesan Mass at the Grotto. We will be thinking of you all back home.
After a painfully early start, that got us well and truly into pilgrimage-mode, and having fought through unprecedented crowds in Birmingham airport, we arrived in Lourdes at 11 o’clock this morning. Just in time for forty winks and a generous lunch! The afternoon was surprisingly sunny and we spent a lazy afternoon visiting old haunts and reminding ourselves of the beauty and serenity that is Lourdes.
In the town it was business as usual…
The sun shone and some took shelter under the trees in the domain…
Whilst others flocked to La Grotte..!
Tomorrow at around 2pm we will be streaming live from St Michael’s Gate, Lourdes as the Birmingham Diocese start their pilgrim journey and process through this Door of Mercy,
Tomorrow evening at 9pm we hope to be streaming live at the Marian Procession as our lads will be suited and booted to carry the statue of Our Lady and lead the procession.
Live streaming will occur weather permitting!