Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Lady of Lourdes, France

Our Lady of Lourdes, France

Sakal Times blog

We checked into the hotel rooms at Lourdes pilgrim town in France and soon left for the site where Mother Mary is believed to said to appeared to teenager Bernadette Soubirous  in 1858.  My wife Jacqueline, daughter Aditi and I joined the hundreds of pilgrims who were heading towards the basilica built near the site of the apparition. Lourdes is one of the most visited Catholic pilgrim centres in the world. What we experienced during the next three days of our stay in this small town was just unforgettable. The ongoing novena prayers in honour of Mother Mary and her feast on September 8 have refreshed my memories of the days we spent in Lourdes.

We reached at the large ground in front of the impressive Rosary basilica. There were hundreds of wheelchair-bound patients queued up to participate in the evening candle-lit procession during which the devotees said rosary and litany prayers in French, English and other languages. Sick people from various places In Europe and elsewhere are especially brought here to seek their healing. Incidentally the wheel-chairs were moved not by the relatives of the sick but by local volunteers and professional health nurses clad in white and blue uniforms. Lourdes city has indeed seen prosperity due the flourishing pilgrim tourism there. The city is one of the most important centres of Marian devotion, the other being Fatima in Portugal and Vailankanni in India. Some group of devotees in the procession were carrying banners of their nations from various continents and looking at them I wished I too should have prepared a banner of India!

The next morning, we visited the grotto, the site of Mother Mary's apparition. Mary is said to have appeared to peasant girl Bernadette 18 times. A small statue of Mary is placed up higher in the grotto and masses celebrated daily at the site are attended by thousands of visiting devotees. During our visit, a German bishop and an Italian cardinal concelebrated the mass there and me and my family members were privileged to meet both of them, thanks to a Catholic priest who was accompanying us on our Europe tour.

The visit to the Saint Pius X Basilica on the third day of our stay left all of us bewildered. The underground basilica accommodates as many as 25,000 people and is one of the largest churches in the world. International masses with prayers in major world languages are celebrated at the basilica on every Wednesday and 
Sunday morning. Pope John Paul II - the pilgrim pontiff who set a record of visiting a large number of nations - had visited Lourdes first in 1983 and later in 2004.

Lourdes is indeed a beautiful and very clean tourism centre. During our stay there, we walked for a long distance admiring the landscape there, the clean sky blue waters of the river flowing just opposite the grotto and shopping at the local shops. The large number of photographs taken there have helped me to keep afresh memories of this picturesque town.

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