Lourdes Pilgrimage 2011 - Wednesday 24th August

There are no photographs to share from Wednesday morning because that it when the pilgrimage went down to the Baths in Lourdes for prayer, an area where cameras are frowned upon to ensure privacy! The Baths are fed by the spring of water which St. Bernadette uncovered during Our Lady's apparitions in 1858. During the course of the apparitions a woman plunged her paralysed hand into the water and found it cured by God's grace. Since then pilgrims have come to bathe in the water as a sign of their trust in God during sickness, and as a reminder of their baptismal promise to follow Jesus Christ. Those Assisted Pilgrims who wished to bathe in the waters were accompanied to the Baths, and prayers were led by Bishop Paul Hendricks. Carmelite friar Fr. Francis Kemsley was among those helping to animate the prayers and nurture a spirit of reflection. Assisted Pilgrims have priority at the Baths, but the more able-bodied had to endure extremely long queues. They did so with a spirit of generous patience however, because those wanting to bathe were young people passing through Lourdes after World Youth Day.

Water was the theme of the day, with the blistering heat of earlier in the week being replaced by persistent rain. A hardy group of pilgrims climbed the hill beside the basilicas to trace the Stations of the Cross, led by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton Diocese. Assisted Pilgrims, who normally pray the Stations on the flat terrain of the Prairie opposite the Grotto, crammed into one of the Accueil Chapels for a beautiful Stations reflection led by Fr. Nicholas King, S.J., and Fr. Simon Blakesley.

Fr. Nick King leading the Stations of the Cross in a packed Accueil Chapel

Happily the rain stopped in time for the Mass organised by children, which meant that the face-paint and fancy-dress costumes of the children and their helpers remained intact! The Mass was a lively and moving liturgy, profound in its simplicity, involving children from the Glanfield Children's Group and the Helpers' Children's Programme.

Balloons, party outfits and face-paint were the order of the day
at the Mass organised by children.

Earlier in the week six children in the Glanfield Group had received the sacraments of baptism, holy communion, and confirmation. The Group's Chaplain, Monsignor Anthony Rogers, preached about God's gift to the Church through the sacraments, and the children held up posters they had decorated naming each of them.

The children with their posters

The posters were paricularly poignant for those children who had received
the sacraments of initiation during the pilgrimage.

Part of the joy of the Mass organised by children is its slightly unpredictable nature! No one was phased by some of the children with specific needs who came up to them during the liturgy asking for a hug!

Fr. Tony Rogers receiving an unexpected hug from one of the children during Mass!

Children from the Glanfield and HCP groups said the bidding prayers.

It is a long-standing tradition that the Mass organised by children concludes with a rendition of the song "Rise and Shine". This was led by the children and helpers and enthusiastically copied by clergy and congregation.

Members of the Glanfield Group leading "Rise and Shine"

Pilgrims young and old joining in the rendition of "Rise and Shine"

On Wednesday evening the Young Helpers' Group welcomed the leader and director of the Carmelite pilgrimage, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal and Mr. Johan Bergström-Allen, to dinner at their hotel. This was an opportunity to meet with the young people and encourage them in their service of the sick and disabled, both in Lourdes and back at home.

To round off the day the Carmelites hosted a drinks reception at the Grand Hotel Gallia & Londres. This is an opportunity for the members of the Carmelite group to socialise, as well as to thank those organisers who make the pilgrimage possible. There was an excellent turn-out, with Archbishop Peter Smith, Bishop Paul Hendricks and Bishop Peter Doyle among those in attendance.

The Carmelite social is a moment for relaxation towards the end of the week.

Brother Ged Walsh (centre) giving an encouraging thumbs-up
to one of the Carmelite group's younger friends.

Four of the Carmelite group's helpers enjoying an evening off from duty.

Fr. Francis Kemsley with Joan Agba (left) and Mary Okeke
from the parish of English Martyrs in Walworth, served by the Carmelite friars.

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.