We started off our first full day in Lourdes with Mass in the chapel of St. Anne, at the basilica. From there, Fr. Burr led us in praying the stations of the cross. There is a path going up a hill with beautiful life-size stations right across the street from the basilica.
At this point, we were free until the evening for lunch and personal prayer. Many men took advantage of the reconciliation chapel (which was more of a huge, two story building), where confessions are heard in many languages, including several confessors who speak English.
Many of the men took advantage of the opportunity to bathe in the spring waters, which Lourdes is famous for. When Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette, the Blessed Mother asked her to dig in a particular spot, from which water started bubbling forth. Bernadette was told to drink the water and wash in it. After that, many people followed St. Bernadette’s example, and continue to do so today. Here is Detroit seminarian Dominic Macioce about his experience in the baths:
Today our pilgrimage journey finds us in Lourdes, France. It is one of the biggest Marian apparition sites in the world and has over 5 million pilgrims visit each year. It is a beautiful place, and one of my favorites that we have visited so far.
Today I was truly blessed to be able to visit the cave where our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette. At Lourdes the place our Blessed Mother appeared is relatively the same today as it was in St. Bernadette’s day, which made prayer very fruitful for me.
However, I would have to say the best experience I have had here at Lourdes is at the baths. Pilgrims are given the opportunity to be fully immersed in the healing water that flows from the underground spring. By the grace of God, the water here has been famous for healing. People come for all kinds of healing — physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, etc. — and there have been countless miracles of healing over the years. I approached the water in faith, hoping to experience its healing effects as well.
The pilgrims are asked to wait in a large outdoor waiting room, where we are given a chance to enter into a spirit of prayer and form our intentions. Then, in small groups of five to ten people, we are moved into a smaller waiting room and set before the different baths. One by one the pilgrims are lead into an inner room, pray to the Blessed Mother for their intentions, and helped down a few steps into the baths. The pilgrim is then asked to sit down in it and offer a short prayer.
When I entered the water my breath was taken away, not because of spiritual ecstasy, but because the water was FREEZING! I offered my prayer and shivered my way out. Afterwards, I offered another prayer and asked for the intercession of St. Bernadette. I gathered my belongings and went to the large outdoor waiting area.
Reflecting on the whole experience I was overcome by God’s grace washing over me. I was struck by a deep consoling warmth, and purity of heart. I felt completely wrapped in the mantle of Mary, and was overcome with gratitude. Interestingly, I was dry after 5 minutes without drying off. The people at Lourdes used to attribute it to a miracle, but I was told that the water has such a high mineral content it dries very quickly.
On the way back to the hotel we passed by the Marian Grotto where Mass was being offered. I took a moment to acknowledge our Lord and thanked Him for giving the Church such a wonderful guide, His Blessed Mother. It was truly an amazing experience.
After our afternoon of prayer, we returned to our hotel for our final Theological Reflection. Our article, appropriately enough, was on the Blessed Mother and her connection to the Church. It led to a great discussion on suffering, healing, and Mary, an especially relevant discussion here at Lourdes.
After dinner most of the men returned to the basilica for the rosary procession once again. We have one more full day in Lourdes, so we’ll write more about the experience in our next blog entry.