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Remembering Lourdes

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Yesterday on my feed, I saw that a friend had finally gotten COVID. It does not seem serious, just manifesting the symptoms of loss of taste and smell. Making a mental note to pray for this friend, I remembered as well that it had been twenty-five years since we had both been on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

In 1997, I joined a group of friends for the trip of a lifetime. Well, more than a trip, it was a pilgrimage. Pope John Paul II had invited us, the world's youth, to meet him in Paris for the World Youth Day. We were excited and had spent two years raising funds and preparing ourselves for this 20-day event. Besides the actual World Youth Day in Paris, we made a European tour.

We spent four or five days staying in Lourdes. What is Lourdes for me? What does it mean? I was thinking about that this morning during prayer time in the chapel.

Today, we celebrate Our Lady of Lourdes. This brings back a lot of memories. We stayed in Lourdes for several days before World Youth Day in 1997. I had been wearing sandals during the trip and, by this time, had significant blisters. We visited all the sites in Lourdes. I remember asking prices "in French" at the religious articles' shops. We slept at a youth campground, very close to the shrine. The grotto is a special place. The experience of bathing in the water was also new. (not taking a bath or a shower, but having the people help you into the water for the dunking) There was a special sense of modesty and grace. Though I was still wet when putting on my clothes, suddenly I was dry.

We helped lead one of the mysteries during the night's rosary and procession. The youth at the camp insisted we go to the "Spectácle." We were trying to understand what they were talking about. I think it translates into English as "spectacle," not too far off. It was a modern play, in French, telling the story of the apparition at Lourdes. It did not impress us much at the time, but it is a memory that lingers still and causes fond memories of Lourdes. I went once, twenty-five years ago, but Our Lady accompanies us each day.

Here in Connecticut, there is a shrine that helps me very much to pray. I hope to go again soon.

I wanted to celebrate Our Lady well today. I prayed the rosary early in the morning and celebrated Mass with fervor. I prayed for my friend at the Mass. In the morning, I had a meeting, and then I planned to get ahead on my studies. But life happened.

One of the brothers was experiencing some health symptoms, so I took him to Urgent Care. I expected it to take an hour or two from my day, no more. But from Urgent Care, we went to the Emergency Room for more tests. I imagined the words of Dante: "Abandon all hope, you who enter here." It seemed to be an eternal affair. In the end, the brother is fine, but I spent most of my day waiting.

I was thinking, "well, I suppose it is appropriate on the World Day of the Sick to be helping somebody who is sick. At least I am not sick." I remember very well a serious spell of illness I went through a few years ago in El Salvador, first pneumonia and then dengue fever. But then I began to think, "aren't we all sick? Aren't we all in need of healing?" I started to think of some of the interior wounds and things about myself that need healing. Mary's gentle hand neared my soul.

To pass the time, I actually began to read (once again) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is not so much to gain personal efficiency but more to continue growing in character as a man and, thus, a priest. It made me think about investing better in others to be happy and develop themselves.

So, I had my unique living of the day dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The "sick person" I was attending to came out all right. I hope my friend is doing well, and I hope she touches my heart and heals me as well.

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