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placeholder November 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Thousands of pilgrims come to Lourdes in the hope of receiving relief and healing for their ills.
Courtesy photo

'If only the world were more like Lourdes'

In a recent Catholic Voice article, Father Jim Sullivan described his experience of the presence of Our Lady while leading a pilgrimage in Fatima, Portugal. "It was almost as if I could see her, talk to her, touch her," he recounted. He said that experience was the deepest spiritual experience he has ever had in his life.

I will be joining Father Jim and Father Augustine Joseph as we lead a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Oakland on an October 2015 pilgrimage to Portugal, Spain and France.

We will visit Fatima on the day the Church celebrates the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, we'll visit the famous church of Santiago de Compostela in Spain — the terminus of "The Way of St. James" made famous in the Martin Sheen movie "The Way," and continue on to France where we'll visit Lourdes and the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Paris. We are hoping that a good number of pilgrims from the Oakland diocese will be able to join for this special trip.

Not unlike Father Jim, I had an extraordinary experience at one of the destinations we will visit. It happened in Lourdes where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette. I arrived just before midday at the "Cachot," a former city jail, where St. Bernadette and her family lived when the apparitions took place. I sat for a while in the small, dark room and pondered what it must have been like for the family to live in this tiny place. I thought about how from this very room Bernadette defied her family and the local authorities in order to visit the Blessed Mother at the Grotto near the river. Stepping out of this little dwelling into the sunlit street outside, the bell from the nearby Catholic church of Sacre Coeur tolled. At the end of the tolling I was overcome by an amazing, uplifting feeling. It was as if the spirit of St. Bernadette herself touched my own soul for a moment.

Thousands of pilgrims come to Lourdes in the hope of receiving relief and healing for their ills. Some have received miracle cures. Many others leave Lourdes spiritually fortified though not completely cured of their ills. To see the care and devotion that is shown to the malades (sick) at the Sanctuary of Lourdes is a beautiful experience in itself. There every human has dignity. People glory in showing care to those in need. If only the world were more like Lourdes!

At night the Sanctuary of Lourdes glows. The Basilica is illuminated, a tree of candles lights up the Grotto and the Marian procession winds its way through the Sanctuary grounds. The procession with its beautifully lit candles captures in microcosm what a pilgrimage is all about. It is a journey, a communal experience of seeking and touching the sacred. In our pilgrimage of 2015 we have the privilege of visiting destinations that our Blessed Mother herself deigned to visit. It is sure to be a grace-filled experience.

(Father Lawrence D'Anjou is pastor at St. Raymond Parish in Dublin.)

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