the friend online
28 August 2009

Good Lourdes - preview

Matthew Biggs recounts a pilgrimage in which he learned about serving God by serving others

Earlier this year a Catholic friend asked whether I would like to join him and 260 other able-bodied and infirm pilgrims on an organised trip to Lourdes, a small town in southwest France, celebrated for the series of visions of Mary given to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858
  • It is a shrine where the waters are said to have curative and miraculous properties and the religion is Roman Catholicism at its most fervent

  • On the plane to Lourdes, a fellow pilgrim told me: ‘Our role is to ensure that the pilgrims have the best possible time
  • This is not a retreat, it’s a holiday
  • ’ Even so, the trip was a combination of physical labour where the 200 helpers would be running a temporary nursing home for the sixty malades (the Lourdes term for sick pilgrims) using the pristine Lourdes facilities and spiritual exercises as we took the malades out to Masses, prayers and the local pubs! Active participation was encouraged, but people were able to opt in or out of trips provided that the overall ratio of helpers to malades was within safe tolerances

  • Matthew Biggs

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