Lourdes Pilgrimage 2011 - Sunday 21st August

Sunday is one of the two days in the week when the Sanctuary authorities encourage all pilgrimages in Lourdes to take part in the International Mass in the Underground Basilica of St. Pius X. It is an impressive sight, some 20,000 pilgrims from around the world gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist. The celebrant, Cardinal Dias (until recently Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples), was able to offer the Eucharistic Prayer in several languages without the use of books!

Assisted Pilgrims being cared for during Mass.

For those Assisted Pilgrims who find the International Mass too crowded, a smaller celebration of the Eucharist was held in the Accueil Notre Dame. The Mass was celebrated by the Chaplain to the Sick, Fr. Simon Blakesley of East Anglia Diocese, and he was joined at the altar by two friars from the Carmelite group, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal and Fr. Francis Kemsley.

Fr. Wilfrid (left) celebrating Mass with Fr. Simon Blakesley

A few years ago the Catholic Association established the Helpers' Children's Programme (HCP) to provide crèche facilities for the children of volunteers on the pilgrimage. On Sunday morning the group gathered for an intimate and lively celebration of Mass during which the celebrant, group chaplain Fr. John Warrington of East Anglia Diocese encouraged the children to reflect on the words of the Lord's Prayer.

Mass for the Helpers' Children's Programme

Fr. John Warrington asking questions of the children at the HCP Mass

Children play a very important part in the Catholic Association pilgrimage, and the Glanfield Group was set up 25 years ago to welcome disabled, sick and disadvantaged children, and their families. Rather than staying in the 'Accueil' house of welcome in the Sanctuary, the Glanfield Group is based in a hotel in the town. Every evening the group has a session of Night Prayers, which members of the Carmelite group often enjoy attending. On Sunday night the group was visited by Bishop Paul Hendricks, the Chair of the Catholic Association.

Glanfield Night Prayers on the roof terrace of their hotel.

The evening cool during Night Prayer came as a welcome relief after an extremely hot day (over 40 degrees celcius). The weather was so hot that the Blessed Sacrament Procession which normally begins outdoors took place in the Underground Basilica. In order to arrive there as a group, Catholic Association pilgrims gathered for a short procession of our own.

Jean Saunders carries the banner for the Carmelite group,
which includes Carol Wilson (seated).

The banners of the various groups that make up the Catholic Association.

Processing into the Underground Basilica

The Blessed Sacrament Procession includes a colourful display of banners
from around the world.

Some of the Catholic Association's young helpers
taking a well-earned rest in the Underground Basilica.

Like the Torchlight Marian Procession, the Blessed Sacrament Procession is undertaken in response to Our Lady's request to Saint Bernadette that people come to the shrine in procession. The service includes exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the blessing of sick and disabled pilgrims.

The Blessed Sacrament being reverenced at the altar in the Underground Basilica.

Catholic Association pilgrims being blessed.

Lourdes is a world capital of prayer,
bringing together Christians from every corner of the globe.

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Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.