(This is how I captured all I absorbed from my pilgrimage to Lourdes)

Facing Cancer, Finding Christ. Lourdes, France. 6/28/23 JMJ.

We’ve been home since Saturday. At peace. I have finally shaken off pilgrimage fatigue and downloaded a picture I took. This is a photograph of the Grotto from across the river. It is imbedded in the Churches that were built after the visitations. This is where the Mother of Jesus Christ, Redeemer and King, touched down in an obscure town in the French Pyrenees and appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old sickly, impoverished and illiterate child. On February 25th, Our Blessed Mother asked St. Bernadette to, “Wash and drink from the spring.” The child dug in the dirt and a spring came forth from the mud.  On March 25th, Our Blessed Mother was asked by St. Bernadette for Her name.
“I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The spring that St. Bernadette excavated flows at the rate of 35,000 gallons per day. We drank Lourdes spring water for the entire week. It is piped to the baths and to taps all along the grotto. People fill bottles with water from these taps. We brought six liters home along with a realization just as precious. Somewhere last week, I sat with one of the priests in our entourage. His parish was in Northern New England. This was his third pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“This place gives us the most vivid idea of what life will be like in heaven,” he said to me. Later that day, I sat in my room in the Accueil, the massive building across the river from the Grotto that accommodates the sick, pilgrims like us with special needs. In the distance a mélange sounds glowed loud then soft, each taking turns leading the way. I hear the prayers of The Mass in French, a Eucharistic procession dressed with hymns in Italian, then Latin, then Spanish, then German. The Church bells played softly, “Ave Maria!” Then the bells accented the hours, the melodies tip-toed through the mountainsides. Voices prayed the Rosary below my window. All these sounds were swept along by the river rushing past the Church, the Grotto, the Baths, all day long and well into the candle-lit night. My friend, the priest from Northern New England was right. This is how we will spend Eternity, in Heaven; praising God, being serenaded by the Living Waters, endlessly bathed in the vibrations of the Church bells and the hymns of Joy sung in every language on Earth.

I told friends and family I was on pilgrimage to Lourdes to find peace. I thought I could capture that peace in a few photographs, or drops of water, or a rosary purchased from a vendor in town. I thought that peace would be the absence of illness. In the end, that peace washed over me like a soft rain, day after day, wherever I looked, whatever I did, morning, noon and night; in the chapel, at the Eucharistic Procession and Exposition, at Mass, at the Grotto, at the Baths, at the Stations of the Cross, at the Anointing of the Sick. I saw it in the seamless effort of the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers staff who have been conducting these pilgrimages for 20 years. I saw it in the joyful faces of the high school and university students, in the dining room bowls of coffee and bread to die for, in the dignified stature and holy reflections of our clergy, in the tireless attentiveness of our doctors and registered nurses. All these people volunteer their presence, pay their own way to be here, to take care of us, to bring us in our need to Lourdes, to Our Blessed Mother, to Jesus Christ, Redeemer and King.

Peace. I saw it in the face of my wife and daughter. At different times, their faces seemed to glow. Peace. I don’t know that I’ve been cured. But I know I have been healed. A voice called me by name and said so.
The Voice of Peace, the Word Incarnate, cascades and cradles all who come here. Come to Lourdes and see for yourself.