After dinner, we have free time. Usually this is the time you can take to walk around or go have a drink or the knights and dames get time off from their malades and can enjoy themselves. I think it’s an unwritten rule, actually. I could have asked them to take me places in the voiture, but I didn’t feel like that was right.
Mel had the great idea that we needed to get down to the Grotto when mass wasn’t going on. (Because mass was always going on, like every half hour!). The trick is to go during the rosary procession, because they aren’t having mass and the majority of people are at, you guessed it, the procession!!! So that was our chance, Mel and I walked down (Mel holding my arm to guide me and steady me) and we got in line at the grotto.
There is something incredibly visceral and physical about walking into the Grotto. Not for mass, but walking and touching and seeing up close. The stone is worn smooth from the millions of pilgrims who came before. The sound of the spring, constantly welling forth, overpowers the river nearby. The scent of the candles and flame, and then the sight of the statue and the powerful words, “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou” (I am the Immaculate Conception), all touch our physical nature.
There is also something peaceful about the Grotto at night. Fewer people, the light is angled and it highlights the important.
Let’s remember that Mary appeared physically present at this place. I think this is something we as humans often overlook. We whip out the whole “spiritual” bit, and also find ways to separate it from our regular lives, as if “spiritual” is something nice and separate that we can take out of the box when it suits us and put it away when we don’t want to deal. Well, if I learned anything on this pilgrimage, it’s that the two go hand in hand – every beer, every cappuccino, every walk up and down the hill, every meal – they all had as much or more influence on me as the “religious” events. We are human, we crave community and the physical. We shouldn’t, nay, can’t separate that physical from the spiritual!
Think of it this way – in this world historical events took place that people study and learn from. We have ruins of Colosseums, Parthenons, pyramids, Great Walls… and people go to see them, to see the history. Doctors and nurses study diagnoses of the past, famous surgeons, they go to reknowned schools or hospitals to learn their lessons. People go to Paris, Rome, the Holy Land, to see the history. But, if we were just physical, none of that would matter, would it? In my opinion, if we separate the physical from the spiritual, we end up with a materialistic society that values what you do over who you are…….. oh wait, that’s where we are, isn’t it? I’m blaming Hegel and Marx. And our deluded idea that we can separate ourselves.
Back to the Grotto. Best decision to do that, thank you Mel! These are thoughts I was able to parse together after the fact, thinking about it.
We also hit the adoration chapel for a bit – the things I craved were quiet and adoration and contemplation, and after the whack on the head at the stations I was prepared for it! We also ran into some GOLD team friends there, doing the same thing as us. (Thank you Fr. Fisher!)