Crew: Len B, Susan H, Kathleen W, Fr. Fisher
- 0700: Breakfast
- 0900: The Baths
- 1200: Lunch
- 1345: Orientation of Lourdes and team photo
- 1530: Mass @ St. Bernadette’s
- 1630: Awarding of Malade medals
- 1830: dinner
- 1945: assemble and line up for 2100 Rosary procession
In my previous post, Theophilus, (heh) I shared some of the thoughts and emotions that happened at the baths, and the emotional distress I was under. God, through His mother, knew how to start consoling me in this time even if I didn’t realize it.
But first, a tangent. I now am having more and more trouble speaking, ALS is making my upper muscles/bulbar muscles less responsive.
If you knew me prior to February 2017, you would know that I love a good one liner. I love a good joke, a good story, a humorous comment. Rapid (British) humor is what calls to me. Even throwing in a “that’s what she said” comment makes me laugh, and I’m still always up for a good laugh even if I can’t really laugh anymore. But now I can’t make the comments myself. I’m forced to slow way down, listen to my companions, and laugh with them instead of me making the comments. This leads to a desire to slow everything down, consciously or no, and a desire for a communal environment with those around me.
If you read the Bible, you’ll find that in the Old Testament one of the big no-nos for Israel was to eat the food of a foreign nation (lamb boiled in it’s mother’s milk or stuff like that) because to God, eating with someone was convenanting with them, inviting them to be family, etc. Then the new covenant at the last supper, and the ongoing referral to “breaking bread with someone” that we do. Meals are communal, inherently bonding, whether the Eucharist or eating cooked fish on the shoreline with Jesus. I think this continues in our daily life which is why family meals are so important.
Back to the afterbath, though, and Susan had gone back with another voiture (Susan will feature more later the whole week). Len, Terry and his daughter Kathleen, Fr. Fisher, and GOLD team leader Laura all came with Mel and I away from the baths, and asked, “what do you want to do?” Well… heck, I didn’t know. I didn’t want to do anything! Then Terry suggested going around to see the basilica dome and after we did that, to go up the hill toward the fort and maybe get a coffee at shop they knew. (It’s not fair, Terry I think is qualified as a full on tour guide at Lourdes, he’s also lead GOLD team in the past.) So, with Len pulling, Kathleen and Laura pushing, we did those things. And I’ll talk about these things in the next day 2 post.
What I will talk about right now are the conversations. After the baths, I felt rushed and wanted to be alone. But our small group became the perfect size of conversations and being alone, away from larger groups. The conversations started with small things such as different sights and things to do, and led to job descriptions, insights into old friendships, stories about how many times some of the knights and dames had been to Lourdes, and some world and church history. Little did I realize at the time that it was exactly the start of what I needed, and I know God knew that. As we went up the hill, we chatted some more, and went to the Bar Express Express Bar
for a coffee. And more conversations happened. I learned that everyone has a story of suffering. I was able to talk about this blog and share a little bit about what’s my deal. I learned that Fr. Fisher was going to pitch for the Yankees or be a priest (thank God he became a priest). Most of all, all this happened over coffee, that aspect of “meals” that opens up relationship and covenant with other people.
At this point, I sound pretty shallow, don’t I? “Oh Joe, geez, in one of the holiest places on earth you need to leave and get coffee and talk about baseball?” But I needed to take the time away from the group and the shops and the Domain even to recover the human aspect of the pilgrimage. Don’t forget, we are human which is body AND soul. Both are intrinsically and forever linked and as we nourish one aspect we must ensure the other is as well. At that moment, those conversations opened up a door for me into a hallway filled with many doors all waiting to be opened. That specific group of people, whom I didn’t know very well at all (it was day 2), were in that moment the right group for me to be with to remove me from my questioning “Why?” and despairing. I didn’t have the answer, but I was being guided to think differently.
Later, I think after the orientation, we had a moment to gather as a GOLD team and all share our experiences. If you know me, or any history of my family, “I don’t share” (Jessie, care to comment?). But in this moment I had to share, and I am not sure why. What I discovered and shared was that my experience did not go the way I wanted, and I was disappointed.
But it was also a signal for me that I’m not in control, and I was beginning to realize that God’s ways are not our ways. I also was processing all the conversations I had with my teammates through the day. I needed to contemplate on them more, because every conversation was that opening of another door or window into new insights on my question. Not very insightful at the time – I think I’m pretty slow. But I felt I needed to share that.
Remember that I still am confused and wondering “Why?” I still don’t have an answer. But, after the rush of the first days there was an opening into more understanding. Perhaps that was a catalyst day. All I know is in that moment, I needed that time, those people, and that separation, for my own self. I know that God knew that too, and it’s going to be like this throughout the pilgrimage.