With apologies to Jerome K Jerome, a Lourdes Pilgrim writes:
I’m so old I can remember an England football team winning the World Cup. Yet, until last week, I’d never been to Lourdes. Over the years my view had always been that it’s not my scene. I guess I always envisaged Lourdes as a sort of hot spot for religious tourism with an overabundance of tacky souvenir shops, and that the atmosphere there would be a bit sentimental for my taste.
Suffice to say, now I know different.
My presence at this year’s Diocesan Pilgrimage came about by chance, literally, and back in Leeds, I’m reflecting on an experience that confounded all my expectations. Lourdes turns out not to be tacky but life-enhancing and it’s not sentimental; at times it’s an emotional experience and powerfully so.
Lourdes is unashamedly Catholic and ultimately joyous. It is the Church at is best – universal, international and multi-lingual yet united in prayer and worship. Our own pilgrimage shows the Diocese at is best, pilgrims gathered around our Bishop at our own liturgies and day by day displaying countless acts of care, generosity and kindness involving people aged from thirteen to ninety-three and from the length and breadth of the Diocese of Leeds.
I’ve also discovered just how much is owed to those who plan and organise the Pilgrimage each year and to those who care for the sick and the infirm – the doctors, the nurses, the carers and the young people from our schools and colleges – and our clergy. The Pilgrimage is faith, hope and love in action and it’s wonderful to behold.
During the Pilgrimage I met someone from our Diocese who’s been to Lourdes on a total of 173 occasions during the past fifty years. For most of that period he was there dispensing care to pilgrims and now he needs a bit of it himself. I’ll never match his tally – who could – but I pray that my first visit to Lourdes will not be my last.
And if you’ve never been, GO!
Peregrinorum, Dioecesis Loidensis