From a very young age, I hoped that Our Lady would bring me to Lourdes.  My parents first visited Lourdes on a military pilgrimage when my family was stationed in Germany, and my two older siblings served on numerous youth pilgrimages.  This small, miraculous town in the south of France was a place that I often heard about, and so, often thought about.

In 2013, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer, and in the summer of 2014, my entire family – both parents and 5 kids – were graced with the opportunity to participate all together in a pilgrimage with the North American Lourdes Volunteers.  I still remember the overwhelming sense of peace upon first entering the Sanctuary.  This time of serving my mom and the other sick pilgrims, alongside my siblings, while also strengthening my relationship with Our Blessed Mother, was pivotal in my life.

 After returning home, I immediately began thinking about how I could travel back to Lourdes to serve, and the following summer, my prayers were answered.  My mom and I joined in on another sick pilgrimage, where, once again, I spent the week serving her and the other pilgrims in a very special way, still noticing more and more how Our Lady was drawing me closer to herself and working her hand into my life.

My mom ended up passing away in November of 2016 – my freshman year of college, and although it is always so painful to lose a family member, everyone closest to her felt a great peace knowing that her role as a mother, wife, sister and friend was not over, but beginning again in a new and very profound way.

By the grace of Our Lady, I have served twice more in Lourdes since my mom’s passing, with the opportunity to assist in the piscines both times.  Just as I dreamed of Lourdes as a little girl, the unique graces and holy encounters experienced during each visit still keep me dreaming of returning to Lourdes now as a young adult.  It is truly humbling to witness firsthand the ways in which Mary touches peoples’ lives when visiting Lourdes, and to know and cherish the ways in which she has touched my own life and the lives of my family.  There is something to be said about the genuine prayerfulness and peace of the Sanctuary, the smiles that exist on the faces of every pilgrim present, and the attitude of selflessness that seems to be inexplicitly encouraged and practiced, similar to the ways of St. Bernadette.  Lourdes truly does hold so much for everyone – young and old, sick and healthy, Christian and non-Christian, for the love and grace of Our Blessed Mother will never reach its limit if we allow ourselves to be open to it.