Hello, Reader Land! We are back! Back from a fantastic, whirlwind, life-changing, gut-checking, priority discerning, revealing (I was about to say “revelating”), humbling, emotional, beautiful pilgrimage to Lourdes. Not a trip- a pilgrimage. There is a difference, and I hope to share that with you.
I hope to break down day by day the entire pilgrimage, so expect a string of posts about each day, possibly interspersed with other thoughts that come to me (discourse and dialogue part 2?) But, for this first post I wish to open a door.
By a door, I mean opening myself up to be vulnerable. I’m going to share with the internets thoughts and feelings I’ve experienced on this trip that I’ve been unable to share with words. I truly felt discouragement, isolation, confusion, the slow realizations that came from every day at Lourdes and the deep hope that keeps coming from them. I cannot express enough how this pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Order of Malta is a magnifying glass for my life, my future, my faith, and family, and truly an experience unlike anything other I’ve ever encountered.
Mel and I met so many wonderful people, total strangers, and they welcomed us with open arms for who we are as people and Malades. It didn’t matter, we were guests of honor for a whole week, the last being put first and being served with such love by the first putting themselves last. Men and women you might never meet in regular day to day life, all in uniform working together to serve the sick and the poor, from arriving at BWI airport to leaving BWI a week later.
Friends of good men I look up to in my life, coming out of their way to talk and open that dialogue with us to ensure we felt at home and welcome. Total strangers that allowed us to even travel to Lourdes becoming our friends and providing a glimpse of a holy life in our own state and so much more. Bishops, priests, deacons, friars, Knights and Dames, doctors and nurses, volunteers adult and teenage, even a young volunteer named Jack that was 11, like my own.
We experienced a location where everyone knew why we were there- the healing waters, the call from Mary to come on pilgrimage to the site, to wash in and drink the waters. A place where religion isn’t the secondary or tertiary thing in day to day living, but the primary thing, and it’s ok that it is. Bells from the basilica every 15 minutes, bells ringing the “Ave Maria” periodically, processions and adoration. The supernatural coming to the natural – mysterious and overwhelming.
There is also the natural to experience, for we are both body and spirit. Food, drink, companionship, dialogues, laughter, joy, emotion and sorrow. Being wet, being hot, being tired or physically exerting ourselves (well…. they wouldn’t let me do that too much), singing and even dancing; A quiet cup of coffee in a corner booth, conversations about daily life and family, beers in the bar with laughters and tears; A quiet, insightful podcast in the “Luxurious French cafe”; a walk in the dark and mist at the Grotto; stations of the cross that broke through barriers. All of these human and physical experiences were part of the journey, much needed and still being contemplated.
I intend to unpack all these topics in the coming days. Forgive me if I’m disjointed or bounce around a bit too, but I’m collecting my thoughts to be able to express it all.
Above all, thank you, reader land, for accompanying me on this pilgrimage with your thoughts and prayers. I tried to pray for all of you at Lourdes, at the grotto, and in the baths, and I truly appreciate each and every one of you!