Beautiful autumn colours, bright sunshine and the peace and tranquillity of Aylesford. We arrived at The Friars by coach and car to spend the day in the beautiful ancient surroundings, joining with many other pilgrims who had come to venerate the relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes.
Bishop Paul Hendricks celebrated the midday Mass outdoors in the Shrine, the area where the original medieval church stood with its choir and nave. As the Bishop and the priests processed in, we were delighted to see that Canon Shaun Lennard was one of the concelebrants.
Bishop Paul welcomed everyone with a special mention for the Deaf Community. His homily reflected on Lourdes, Our Lady and St Bernadette. He said, “Lourdes is where we get it right” and continued that Lourdes is a place where those on the margins of society are the most important and are rightly central to all the proceedings. Maybe that is a lesson for all of us, if those on the margins of society are at the very heart of everything in Lourdes, then why not in our parishes? Bishop Paul explained that Our Lady and St Bernadette share characteristics. Both were humble, obedient and in all they did, the focus was not on themselves. St Bernadette never returned to Lourdes after going to Nevers. Mary is rarely mentioned in the Gospels after the story of the nativity. The times she is, are times where she points us to her son, Jesus. At the Wedding in Cana, Mary tells the stewards to do what Jesus tells them, she focuses their attention on Jesus.
These are important messages for us all. In all we do, our actions are for the glory of God. Our words and deeds should lead people to Jesus. We can only do all the things we do because of God’s grace.
Our day continued after lunch with a visit to the relics of St Bernadette. A gentle walk through the rosary garden led us into the relic chapel, where each of us had time to pray and just to be there and hold that precious moment. Candles lit, petitions written, and with a momento in the form of a small bottle of Lourdes water and a prayer card we headed out into the afternoon sunshine for a quick cup of tea before heading back home.
Lourdes is where we get it right. We need to create Lourdes at home, to ensure that those on the margins of society are the centre of all we do, that they are the most important, not pushed aside and forgotten.