Lourdes pilgrimage, days 1*

I want to share the day by day as much as I can, while also sharing my own experiences.  So some posts may be “and then we…” and some will be different.  Maybe I’ll be throwing in a little Joe flair for kicks.

If you are reading this, then you might have seen the post that we were going to Lourdes.  I had time the morning of to write that post- my in-laws came up to watch the kiddos, all the luggage had been packed (thanks to Mel, not me) and we were ready to get going.  I wanted to share with everyone the “what” and the “why” of Lourdes, for those who don’t know about it.  I also wanted to revisit it for me, who grew up watching Song of Bernadette and thought I knew all about it.

My bro-in-law Joe drove us (with my mother so he could HOV back) to BWI.  The drive was uneventful – as all drives should be.  I am pretty sure I dozed off.  I just have this hear because my sister and husband Joe also helped watch the kids while we were away, and picked us up… and gave us mini-stroopwafels for the ride!


BWI was the first step in the experience in contrast, and it started with asking a person standing on the curb wearing a uniform where the international terminal was.  We were supposed to go to door 17, but BWI doesn’t well label the terminals for easy ID.  Joe asked very politely, with an excuse me, and the gentleman answered shortly “I dunno”, and turned away.  Mel and I would revisit this interaction throughout the pilgrimage.  (We were two doors down and I saw Fr. Mullins walking and knew we were in the right place.)

We were met at the door by a knight who took our bags inside.  Once inside, there were small groups of well-dressed knights and dames talking and clearly reuniting after a time of not seeing each other, with some priests and young people all around.  Some wore name tags, some didn’t, and I (and maybe Mel, I’m not sure) felt out of place.  We went up to drop off the luggage, and here I’m pretty sure I ran into Marguerite, deputy chief nurse for the whole trip whom I had met at the screening and spoken to over the phone.

An aside here: Marguerite was and is very concerned for our health and safety, and made sure that I didn’t fall all week and that I had a wheelchair available at all times.


This became a running theme for us, especially on the first few days as Marguerite, Alice, and Laura all wanted me in a wheelchair at the airports but I somehow wasn’t in one.

And then the fun began.  Checking in our luggage, grabbing a (much needed) coffee, then getting our nametags, schedules, meeting the GOLD team** and our crew of the day, Gaby, Greg and Kathleen, Rick (who had to take a separate plane) and getting on the plane- all a blur and somewhat intimidating.  I’m an introverted extrovert, meaning I take a while to warm up to new people but then get comfortable and want to be around them over time, so IMG_2898days 1 are always tough for me!  And then on the plane we were in 1st class, row two, with Archbishop Lori, Bishop Johnston, Abbot Solari, Fra James Michael, a couple of Fathers, all surrounding us!  Holy, for sure, but intimidating.  The inflight entertainment started with a rosary (awesome!)

*fast forward*

The flight, uneventful except for this event that stood out.  A knight we met in the airport walked up and re-introduced himself, Terry, a Eucharistic minister out in Sterling who was friends with Pat, a best friend of my brother-in-law.  God blesses us with such a small world so that moments like this happen, because I look up to my brothers-in-law and also to Pat for how they stand strong in the faith and character out in the world.  Having Terry as part of that group was like adding another role model to follow!

1st and last 1st class flight

Wednesdays flight turned into Thursday’s landing, around 9am.  At Lourdes airport, we had a fast entrance through customs, even though I was walking and not in a wheelchair (Marguerite said I could get off the plane, but not where I was supposed to hop in the chair!  It’s not my fault!)  And Greg and Kathleen helped us with our luggage and everything until…. until… well I forgot to mention that they changed our hotel room number and we didn’t know where to drop the luggage off.  So our bags were now nomads while everyone else’s were getting loaded onto the truck.  Enter Carolyn, also GOLD team, who stayed with us and made sure we got on a bus and our bags were loaded with us!!  (I’m pretty sure we cut in line.  Like, to the very front of the line.  But Carolyn made sure we got on that bus, even at the expense of not riding with her husband!!). We all made it safely to our hotel, St. Sauveur, and were able to drop off our gear, and went down for 1200 lunch.  Meals were scheduled and rigidly followed.

Then, off to 4:30 mass.  It was raining and I was introduced to my “voiture” (vwah-tyur),

The voiture, Greg pulling, Kathleen pushing, Gaby center with the camera

my chariot, also called a cart.  These things are kinda like a rickshaw (fun word, “rickshaw”… say it in your head, you’ll see.)   But I have to say right now that every time someone called it a cart, all I could think of was Monty Python.

I know, really reverent!

Mass was beautiful, the entire US association of the Order of Malta and all the malades, in the rosary basilica.

Celebrated by archbishop Lori, it was a beautiful start to the pilgrimage (and not too long, I may add, for our jet lagged crew).  Then immediately following, the malades remounted our steeds to stand by for the lighting of the pilgrimage candle, which would burn all week for our intentions.img_2911

Then back to dry off (for the pullers, pushers and companions) and then for dinner***.  We ate dinner as teams, GOLD team had several tables of 8 and we sat with our immediate crew (do you crew a voiture?  Let’s go with yes.)

Knights and Dames, drying off at the bar, well earned after a very hard and wet day

This was the first real experience of eating as a community and while it was loud, it was comforting.  There is something incredibly human, incredibly catholic, about breaking bread in fellowship, eating meals together.  This will be a recurring theme for me throughout the pilgrimage.

And then Mel and I were tired and went to bed.  I’m pretty sure the knights and dames may have stayed out later, but that is another story.

Don’t worry, tomorrow begins the existential crises and religious experiences! 

Some more photos:

Our crew schedule for the week


Dome of the Rosary basilica
These magnets are even in France????



*Days 1 because Wednesday turned into Thursday, more like one long day

** There were maybe 8 teams, of various colors – White, blue, red, rose, turquoise, magenta, Gold, green…. I think 8.

***Mel took pictures of all our food.  I didn’t.  If reader land is interested, I will do a post on the meals of St. Sauveur.

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