Today was our second full day in Lourdes, and like yesterday, we had the day mostly free for prayer. We started off with Mass at 9:45 in the Grotto Chapel, which is the spot where the apparitions actually took place. We joined a group of Irish pilgrims from Ferns and Dramour who come here annually, with Mass celebrated by their bishops. It was a great to join them for this Holy Mass.
We prayed in a special way for the men back at home who were being ordained today. Three men were ordained priests in the Archdiocese of Detroit today, and four seminarians were ordained as transitional deacons in the Diocese of Lansing. While we wish we could have been with our brothers on this day, they can be assured we were praying with and for them here in Lourdes.
Today was also our last day with Fr. Burr. It has been great being here with Fr. Burr and we were sad to see him go. Some of the men joined him for a goodbye lunch before he departed to the airport. We pray that he has a safe flight and makes his connection.
As I said above, most of the day today was free for men to go about and pray where they’d like. Some of the men waited the two and a half hours to go in the baths, some of the men explored the village, visiting the house where Bernadette and her family lived.
Walking about in my free time, I was able to reflect a bit upon this holy place. One thing that struck me about Lourdes was all the infirmed, sick, and handicapped people who have made the difficult journey to come here with the hope of healing. As mentioned in previous entries, there are a lot of miracles associated with the spring waters of Lourdes. Almost immediately after Bernadette opened up the spring, people started washing in it and received miraculous healing. As the years have gone on, more and more people have come to Lourdes with great faith and hope in the healing power of our Lord. About 5,000,000 people come here annually.
Lourdes is a place that really draws you out of yourself and leads you to pray for others. You can’t help it, as you are surrounded by people of every level of handicap and infirmity, people on crutches and wheelchairs, the old and the very young. You feel for them, definitely. But I was also inspired by them and their faith. In talking to the people I met, I never got the sense that they were coming here out of superstition, or saw the water as some kind of ‘magic healing potion’. The people at Lourdes don’t advertise it that way, and I think most of the people here understood that. They come here to pray, they come here with faith and hope, but it’s about more than just wanting some outward physical miracle. The waters of the bath help connect them to God. It’s a reminder of the cleansing waters of baptism and it’s a reminder of Christ’s mercy for us, of the blood and water that poured from his side at the crucifixion. It’s more than a physical healing they want, but a spiritual healing, and opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. And that is a beautiful site to see.
While waiting in line for the baths today, I had the opportunity to speak with a man named Harry who was with the Knights of Malta (the Knights of Malta were everywhere here, as one of their ministries is bringing people to Lourdes for healing). Harry was 89 years old, and he has been coming to Lourdes to volunteer at the baths for 45 years. He spends 3 months out of the year here. He said he has seen many miracles with his own two eyes. And while he said it is always incredible to see someone receive that miraculous physical healing, the bigger ones were always the spiritual, the emotional, the psychological. It happens all the time here, and it was a true blessing to be here to witness it and take part in it firsthand.
Many of us were curious what to expect at Lourdes, and were comparing it to our experience a few weeks ago in Fatima. The two places are drastically different. Msgr. Trapp told us that Fatima is a place of conversion, Lourdes a place of healing. And that is absolutely true.
After our great free day off, we all met back at the hotel at 6:15 for evening prayer. We then had our final post card party tonight. We decided to buy the last few hundred post cards we needed and get them all done here. As much work as it was writing out the hundreds of postcards as we did, we are all very thankful to our benefactors who made it possible for us to be here. So we were happy to spend the time connecting with everyone in this individual way. To all of you, please know that we are praying for you and your intentions every day, as we truly appreciate all you have done for us.
That was it for the day, as we have a very early wakeup call tomorrow to depart Lourdes. 5am breakfast comes early… Next stop, Ars, home of the patron saint of parish priests, St. Jean Vianney.