A Lesser Miracle at Lourdes

Posted by dianne on Aug 15, 2008 in Blog | Tags:, , | No comment

Thousands of pilgrims flock to Lourdes this year for celebration of the150th Jubilee at the shrine in the Pyrenees mountains in France celebrating the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette and her two little cousins. I visited the shrine last year with my husband Phil and our daughter Jane. It was my first visit to a renowned shrine, and I didn’t know quite what to expect.

As the train from Paris neared the Lourdes, I was surprised to see a very large Russian Orthodox priest in full colorful vestments stepping off the train before me. Until that moment, it never occurred to me that anyone beyond the Roman Catholic religion recognized the miracles of Lourdes. After checking in to the picturesque small hotel with its exquisite mountain views, we walked through the town out to the grounds of the basilica and shrine. Nothing of a commercial nature is allowed on the grounds of the shrine, but Jane and I were very distressed by the little main street of town stuffed with souvenir shops giving the area the touristy atmosphere of the Wisconsin Dells.

Once at the shrine, we followed the straggling line of pilgrims into the grotto. It didn’t look like pictures of the grotto I had seen as a child. The uneven ground like a shallow rocky pool had been paved with marble, and electric lights illuminated the interior of the grotto. I saw everyone ahead of me touched the wall where holy water ran down from a little spring. I did the same. I had secretly hoped to feel some sort of spiritual reaction, but was disappointed that the only sensation was contact with cold water.

We briefly visited the Basilica and said a few prayers. We decided to return in the evening for the candlelight procession and rosary. I had recently heard a recording of Dr. Wayne Dyer extolling the great sharing of faith he had experienced in this very procession during his visit to the shrine. As he is known to be a student of religions, his description became even more impressive.

We returned after dinner, this time with umbrellas and raincoats as the weather looked threatening. We each carried a tall taper with paper collar to catch dripping wax. While we waited for the crowd to assemble into a line, a light drizzle began. We lit our candles and joined the procession around the square. Together the huge crowd prayed the rosary out loud in French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian. We sang Salve Regina and Immaculate Mary.

The rain grew steadily in strength as we walked until it became a downpour. Even with umbrellas protecting the candles, flame after flame was extinguished by the rain. In spite of candlelight dimming, I felt a little flicker of warmth in my heart.

Together as we prayed and walked, over and over strangers reached out to one another to relight dowsed flames. We became a congregation, a community. We shared our light with one another, and I connected with all those strangers. We supported each other in faith and in hope. It was worth the trip.

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