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Lourdes pilgrimage
transforms souls

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placeholder June 24, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Lourdes pilgrimage transforms souls

Preparing prior to a Mass in the Grotto of Lourdes led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York are from left, Revs. Antony Vazhappilly and Paul Coleman of the Oakland diocese, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, former bishop of Oakland, and Bishop Larry Silva of Hawaii, a former priest of the Oakland diocese.
Very Rev. George Mockel/Courtesy photo

An estimated 6 million people make their pilgrimage to our Lady of Lourdes every year. Lourdes has become a melting pot of different cultures, languages, customs and traditions of people who come to pray to our Blessed Mother Mary.

Coming from different continents, they visit the same Mary who appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1851. This apparition of our Blessed mother changed and transformed the peasant girl completely, paving the way for her to be a saint. The same extraordinary visit of Our Lady to that poor and sickly child transformed this little sleepy town of Lourdes into one of the most attractive centers of pilgrimage in the world.

Lourdes was never the same. It became a cradle of faith, where millions of people from all over the world come to bathe in the fountain of God's love. Numerous miracles have been reported to have taken place at Lourdes. Some of the sick people who visited our Blessed Mother with incurable diseases went back home healed.
Lourdes journey

Daily reports from
Very Rev. George Mockel,

But the greatest of all miracles that happen daily at Lourdes is the conversion of souls. People go back emotionally healed and spiritually transformed and renewed.

Our Lady of Lourdes welcomes people of all religions. At Lourdes you see an ocean of people of all sizes, colors and nationalities. You sense peace and serenity in the faces of all. Here is a place where they come to unburden their problems, worries, difficulties and challenges. Their visit to Lourdes opens their eyes to the spiritual realms, and they draw closer to God.

I had the privilege of pulling Msgr. Daniel Cardelli, who came to Lourdes on his first visit as a malade. Reminiscing about his visit to Lourdes, he said, "It was for me an amazing and fabulous retreat. Celebration of the Holy Mass at the Grotto presided by Cardinal Timothy Dolan with more than 400 priests concelebrating and 25,000 people participating was something that I will remember for a very long time. My heart went out to little children suffering from various diseases. I am able to look at my sickness from a new perspective now. It was a wonderful experience of a lifetime."

Dame Catherine Kim, who was on her fourth pilgrimage, said: "There were no visible physical healing or miracles, but rather all of us experienced spiritual and emotional healing. Many malades told me that, having been in Lourdes, they can now accept their illness without fear or anger. "

Bev Boardman summarized her Lourdes experiences this way, "I feel so much peace and contentment and acceptance for what the future may hold for me. I feel so blessed to have been able to be in Lourdes."

There were 330 pilgrims from the Western Association's 39th pilgrimage and over 6,500 pilgrims from 43 other National Associations of the Order of Malta from around the world. Divided into different teams, with colors as their names, each team's members soon became friends. Though we began as complete strangers, soon we became very noisy, talking and laughing as if we knew one another since the days of Adam and Eve.

A pilgrimage to Lourdes should mark in every pilgrim the beginning of a new life.

About Lourdes

At Lourdes, the sick, traditionally referred to by the French word malades, receive the honor and service the world accords the powerful. They are transported in carts that are pushed and pulled by knights and dames of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta, which completed its 55th international pilgrimage to Lourdes May 3-7.

"The ruler of this world … charges us with foolishness in spending our time and resources on the sick and suffering," said Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, a chaplain of the Western Association of the Order of Malta, based in California, during a May 7 homily.

"Yet because we believe in Jesus, we instead push and pull our beloved malades in a triumphal procession, parading them as the greatest treasures of our Church," said the bishop.

The Western Association of the Order of Malta, one of three U.S.-based associations, brings about 250-300 pilgrims to Lourdes each spring, including 50 malades. The rest are knights, dames, volunteers and companions of the sick, such as spouses or parents. Malade candidates are practicing Catholics who have submitted an application to the order, which reviews their medical diagnosis, invites suitable candidates to join the pilgrimage and covers all their travel and hotel expenses.

The 2013 pilgrimage came as the international Rome-based order, formally titled the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, marks the 900th anniversary of its founding.

On their first day in Lourdes, the malades' feet are washed by members of the Western Association and volunteers, a reminder of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.

For the remainder of the week, the malades, always accompanied by members of the order and volunteers, are the center of splendid liturgies and Eucharistic processions that celebrate the love and hope that Jesus Christ extends to "the least of these."

— Compiled from the National Catholic Register

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