Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parish Pilgrimage - Day 10 - October 16

Today we awoke VERY early (3am) in order to catch our flight to Paris where we spent the day seeing all the typical sites of Paris - the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, etc...

But then, we also visited the church of St. Vincent de Paul where his body is above the altar.  Then we traveled to the Rue de Bac - the church where St. Catherine Laboure had the encounter with Our Lady - and she gave to her the Miraculous Medal.  It was here in this church that we celebrated Mass.

Then to the hotel for some rest, dinner, and a good night's sleep before our return flight to the US tomorrow.

See you all in the States!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Parish Pilgrimage - the Candlelight Rosary Procession

Here are some photos I took tonight during the Candlelight Procession.  Rather than joining the procession, tonight our group stood on the stairs above the lower basilica - so that we could get this view of things...  (I have a short video too, but I can't get it to upload here - I'll try again in Paris tomorrow).

Parish Pilgrimage - A Reflection on the Baths

One of our pilgrims, following the baths, shared this reflection for us:

Today, some of us had the opportunity to participate in the Miracle Baths.  I didn't know what to expect but I was looking forward to it.  Men were sent to the left and women to the right--this line was much longer.  People in wheelchairs and children had a separate entrance and they were taken in first.

The wait was very long--almost three hours--but it got me plenty of time for prayer and reflection.  At times we were led in prayer by one of the volunteers, Hail Mary... was said in different languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, English and Latin.  I also started a conversation with the lady ahead of me, she was from Ireland.  She told me she had brought her 3-year old son to the baths 39 years ago.  He son had had an accident and had suffered burns on one side of his body.  This was her second time to Lourdes and she said she didn't plan on getting into the baths again, but when she arrived at the Grotto she changed her mind.  

The line began to move faster once they closed the men's side and soon I was first in line.  I was taken in to a waiting line inside.  There were ten "tents" that held six pilgrims each.  Signs outside the tents suggested prayers and what to do in the bath.  When I was called into "Tent # 7" I was asked what language I spoke and a volunteer was assigned to me.  Her name was Terese.  She used a cloth as a shield for privacy from the other five pilgrims inside and gave me instructions to remove my clothes.  Once I did she wrapped me in a cloth and I stood by the entrance to the actual bath.  

While I was waiting I kept praying and thinking of all the people on my "prayer list."  Everybody helping was a volunteer and they were very gentle and nice.  I'm sure they had been working for hours but it didn't show. 

I was first in line and couldn't wait to be called in.  

The curtains then opened and three more ladies helped me in.  I feared the water was going to be ice cold--coming from a spring on a mountain--but it wasn't.  Maybe it was because I was praying all that time or because it was such an emotional moment that the coldness did not matter.  The ladies with me prayed along with me and helped me get in and out of the large tub.  They also encouraged me for a few moments of reflection before I got out.

Now that I know what to expect, I'm thinking about doing it again tomorrow.  Taking a bath two days in a row doesn't hurt anyone...especially in the Miracle waters at the Grotto of Lourdes.

Parish Pilgrimage - Day 9 - October 15

Today is a day that was scheduled to be entirely free - so that our pilgrims could take a day to rest & pray on their experiences over the past week (or take time to go to the miraculous baths - something all of the ladies did on Monday).  Since it's a free day - there's really no photos - but here we are in the Chapel of St. Joan of Arc in the "Upper Basilica" of the Immaculate Conception, where we celebrated Mass this morning...

Here is some information on Lourdes & St. Bernadette to help you pray along with us today.  Click here.

And here are just a few more from our time here in Lourdes...

Our Pilgrims in front of the "Lower Basilica" of the Rosary
The Nighttime Procession as it winds around the Sanctuary

The Gave River from our Hotel rooms
The Sanctuary of the Church where Bernadette was baptized

Monday, October 14, 2013

Parish Pilgrimage - Day 8 - October 14

This morning, following breakfast, we went directly to the Grotto for Mass.  It was a Mass with a number of other English-speaking pilgrims from around the world.  Here are some photos from the Mass.  Then, following Mass, we went to visit the holy places of Lourdes.  Here is our group outside the upper & lower basilicas (the Upper Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Lower Basilica of the Rosary).

Then, we began our journey through the town of Lourdes where we visited the place of St. Bernadette's birth, where she lived as a girl (where we prayed for all our families), where her family moved following the economic struggles at the family mill that caused them to move into a small room, and finally to visit the font where she was baptized (and we renewed our own baptismal promises).

The home where St. Bernadette was born
The single room where St. Bernadette lived with her family

the font in which St. Bernadette was baptized

Walking along the streets of Lourdes

Following lunch, there was free time to explore this wonderful, prayerful place on our own.  Some took advantage of the baths already!

Our afternoon is free.  But tonight: the Candlelight Procession!  (more to come...)

Here are some photos from tonight's very moving candlelight procession with the Rosary...

Here is some information about St. Bernadette:

On April 16, 1879, Bernadette -- or Sister Marie-Bernard, as she was known within her order -- died in the Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) Infirmary of the Convent of Saint-Gildard. She was thirty-five.

Born into a humble family which little by little fell into extreme poverty, Bernadette had always been a frail child. Quite young, she had already suffered from digestive trouble, then after having just escaped being a victim of the cholera epidemic of 1855, she experienced painful attacks of asthma, and her ill health almost caused her to be cut off for ever from the religious life. When asked by Monsignor Forcade to take Bernadette, Louise Ferrand, the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Nevers, replied: "Monsignor, she will be a pillar of the infirmary".

At least three times during her short life-time, she received the last Sacraments. She was gradually struck by other illnesses as well as asthma: among them, tuberculosis of the lung and a tubercular tumor on her right knee. On Wednesday, April 16, 1879, her pain got much worse. Shortly after eleven she seemed to be almost suffocating and was carried to an armchair, where she sat with her feet on a footstool in front of a blazing fire. She died at about 3.15 in the afternoon.

The civil authorities permitted her body to remain on view to be venerated by the public until Saturday, April 19. Then it was "placed in a double coffin of lead and oak which was sealed in the presence of witnesses who signed a record of the events". Among the witnesses were "inspector of the peace, Devraine, and constables Saget and Moyen".

The nuns of Saint-Gildard, with the support of the bishop of Nevers, applied to the civil authorities for permission to bury Bernadette's body in a small chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph which was within the confines of the convent. The permission was granted on April 25, 1879, and on April 30, the local Prefect pronounced his approval of the choice of the site for burial. Immediately they set to work on preparing the vault. On May 30, 1879, Bernadette's coffin was finally transferred to the crypt of the chapel of Saint Joseph. A very simple ceremony was held to commemorate the event.

Additional Info:
St. Bernadette was born at Lourdes, France. Her parents were very poor and she herself was in poor health. One Thursday, February 11, 1858, when she was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, a very beautiful Lady appeared to her above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle. The lovely Lady was dressed in blue and white. She smiled at Bernadette and then made the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell on her knees, took out her own rosary and began to pray the rosary. The beautiful Lady was God's Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette seventeen other times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray sinners, do penance and have a chapel built there in her honor. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water. When Bernadette was older, she became a nun. She was always very humble. More than anything else, she desired not to be praised. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. "How can I?" she answered quickly. "The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant." What humility! Herfeast day is April 16th.

Parish Pilgrimage - Day 7 - October 13

Today was a travel day - transitioning from Rome to Lourdes.  First, however, we attended Mass at Our Lady of Grace church very near to our hotel.  We had tried several other options to celebrate Mass, in English, as a group, but none of them seemed to work for our group.  So, we had the opportunity to experience the life of a local Roman parish church.

Then following Mass, we transferred from the hotel to the airport for our flight from Rome to Paris, then Paris to Pau - where we met our new guide and proceeded to the town of Lourdes.

On arrival at the hotel we had dinner, then a number of us walked to the grotto, where the candlelight procession had just ended.  We had the chance to visit the grotto in silence and darkness - a very beautiful and prayerful time.  Many of our pilgrimage took advantage of the light crowds to walk into the grotto, touch the walls, and see the spring which St. Bernadette dug out with her own hands - where water still flows.

Sorry.  Don't have any pictures for today...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Parish Pilgrimage - Day 6 - Saturday, October 12

Today we began very early - in order to get to St. Peter's Basilica one more time - this time for the celebration of the Mass at the altar of the Apostles of Europe.  It was wonderful to be so close to Peter's tomb in the Vatican Grotto (underneath St. Peter's).  (Sorry, I didn't have my camera).

Then, because we are in the ancient city of Rome, we fist visited the church of St. Peter in Chains.  We remember the scripture where St. Peter had been arrested and chained in prison, and the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and the chains fell from his wrists and he walked out of the prison.  The tradition is that these very chains are here in this church in Rome.  The church also houses the very famous "Horned Moses" by Michelangelo.  It is called "horned" because the rays that come from Moses' head (after speaking to God face-to-face) appear to be more horns than rays.  Thus, the nick-name, the "Horned Moses."

Our Group outside the Church of St. Peter in Chains
The chains of St. Peter

Then, following our visit to the church, we visited some of the famous points in Rome: beginning with the the Colosseum.

Then we headed off to the famous Trevi Fountain (where many put "Three Coins in the Fountain" - as per the movie and tradition.

Following this we had a very nice lunch together, then walked with Fr. Bateman to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona - I couldn't bring them to Rome without seeing these two, great landmarks.  Then, after some free time, some decided to take a taxi back to the hotel for some rest before dinner.  Others decided that they would walk back.

As we walked back we went past St. Peter's Square one more time - only to discover that there was a large, evening celebration in honor of Our Lady of Fatima going on.  Tomorrow, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary - just as Mary requested at Fatima.  As we approached the Square we heard singing and saw a huge crowd.  As we got close to realized that THE statue of Our Lady of Fatima was being carried throughout the Square as people sang and prayed.  When I say THE statue, I mean that one in which John Paul II put the bullet that almost killed him on May 13, 1981.  So we were privileged to see this statue being carried throughout the square.

Photo of the statue of Our Lady of Faitma - the best I could get...
Then, after a little rest, we gathered for our "farewell to Rome dinner" at a local restaurant.  Music, wine, more music, more wine - it was a wonderful evening!

We had a wonderful time!  Chris Kostka even made some friends...

Tomorrow we begin our journey toward Lourdes, France.  The day is spent traveling, so won't be much to blog about.  But maybe I'll try to capture some photos of our journey...