A pilgrimage of 80000 people

Lourdes – May 2017

I still don’t know how I feel about this place – being here was an experience we’ve never had before and one I wasn’t expecting.

Firstly, we arrived at our apartment/hotel. We opened the door and were smashed in the face with the smell of curry. Someone before us must have cooked it but everything in the room smelled of it. Even when I used the hair dryer on the last day I could smell it. Luckily, it was boiling so we opened all the windows and were able to air the place. Apart from this, the place wasn’t great either. It had every thing we needed but everything was super simple and old. The bedding was old, you know when the blanket gets those bobbling bits on and is no longer soft?  Yeah, that’s what it was like. We had 4 nights here and it was a long 4 nights! On one of the days, it rained continuously all day long! We were house bound apart from going for a drive with Jon to shoot the lake but it was pouring there too.

I did take the children on the old furnicular up the mountain and managed to coax Caleb to walk the 30 minute walk up to the summit whilst I carried Lil’s. It was hard going as it was up hill all the way but he did so well. This was probably the highlight of our 4 days there. My children love furnicular rides and are starting to enjoy seeing views too. We also did the small tourist train but as far as tourist trains go, it was pretty awful.  Because they do it in different languages by the time hey got to English, we were past the site so we missed it.  It didn’t stop at all so there were no opportunities to take photos either.  It was a great way to waste some time and to actually get around the city to see it all.

There are many churches and religious sites to visit. One church in particular looks like you’ve stepped in front of the Disneyland Castle – it looks like it comes out of a fantasy story.

Lourdes is a pilgrimage site. 80000 people a year come here to pray, ask for forgiveness of their sins and come to be healed. There’s a lighting ceremony 3 months of the year where people gather in the evenings to pray and worship. Now I’m not talking a few people, I’m talking hundreds and thousands. There was something mesmerising about watching the many people filling in to stand before the pope and Mary with their candles. It happens at sun set so the candles are obviously used to be the light when the sun is set. I didn’t understand the whole procession, what it was about and why they did it (nor did I stay to watch the whole thing) as I’m not catholic but seeing this many people gathered together to worship was pretty amazing.

The streets are packed with people all day browsing and purchasing from the many shops that are selling religious figurines, prayer beads, bottles to fill with the holy water and anything else they could pass as a religious artifice.

Worship and prayer fill the many places there are to visit. The churches, the chapels, the place where people go for healing, the walk up the mountain, and the grotto. People came here expecting to leave changed. They come with so much faith, even if it’s not for healing it’s just for a cleansing. There were hundreds of people in wheel chairs and every place catered so well for them.

I have never experienced a place like this before. Even though it was not my beliefs it still made me stop and think about my faith and whether I have enough and whether my relationship with the God I serve is strong enough. One thing I left here knowing for sure though is, that we may believe different things and we may go about our religious practices in different ways, but God looks at our hearts no matter who we are! Who are we to judge who is wrong or right?


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