Written by Edward de Quay and Phoebe Prendergast
We started the day with our first visit to the ‘domain’. It was grey and drizzly, but that did not dampen our spirits! Medford led the procession with the Caritas St Joseph’s banner, where we joined the rest of the Westminster Pilgrimage in Church of St Bernadette for the opening Mass. This was made very special by the statue of Our Lady of Willesden, which was brought all the way from the shrine in Willesden.
We then went back to the hotel for our reconciliation service, and Fr Michael welcomed those who have not previously been to Lourdes. After supper, some of us joined the main pilgrimage for their penitential in the huge underground basilica. We also ate very well, and enjoyed four seasons in one day!
After a hefty breakfast, we had our healing service. Fr Michael helped us to reflect on some of our burdens. This was a beautiful service where everyone was annointed. Donna accompanied us on the flute. A small group also went and joined the main pilgrimage, before rejoining the St Joseph’s group for our pilgrimage photo outside the hotel.
After another substantial lunch, we travelled up the hill for a whole pilgrimage mass in Lourdes Parish Church. We had a beautiful Mass with David Knight leading the singing. After a walk around town we returned to the hotel for supper, and afterwards we joined the Marian Torchlight Procession.
Today we began with our mass for St Joseph’s, appropriately enough in St Joseph’s underground chapel near St Michael’s gate. The mass was celebrated by Bishop Paul McAleenan, and included our pilgrims re-enactment of the Wedding at Cana. Everyone looked fantastic in their costumes, and we brought two stone jars made by the ceramics group all the way from Hendon specially for the occasion.
Following the mass, we took the St Joseph’s candle, decorated with prayer intentions on heart shaped paper, to the candle bank, where it was lit. After lunch, we got on coaches and headed up the hill to Lac de Lourdes for a picnic, sunbathe, sing-song and for some,a pedalo ride! The lake was beautiful, and everyone had fun.
After supper, we joined the main pilgrimage for the stations of the cross in the underground basilica. This year, the pilgrimage musicians had written a special arrangement for the evening, set to images from the high stations of the cross.
After breakfast we boarded the coaches again, this time heading to the Cite St Pierre in the hills, where we had mass with the main pilgrimage in the ‘Cathedral in the trees.’ It was beautiful to have mass out in the open. In the afternoon, there was the opportunity for our pilgrims to visit the baths, where you are immersed briefly in the waters from the spring. Those that went found it an amazing experience, if a little cold!
Before supper, the pilgrimage led the blessed sacrament procession, again ending in the underground basilica for a time of adoration. After supper, the pilgrimage gathered in the Solitude Hotel for a pilgrimage sing-a-long, including performances from our very own Kevan and Jason!
The last full day! We started with the closing mass outside, celebrated from the grotto itself. The weather was perfect for an outdoor mass – no rain, warm, and a little bit of cloud, so no sunburn! Afterwards we processed through the grotto, and moved to the candlebank to light the (huge) diocesan candle.
After lunch, we walked to the low stations of the cross, where David Knight led us through the stations. We admired the stunning granite carvings, and the stories that went with them. After supper, we had a party! The microphone was passed around our talented performers who sung, danced and joked for us, with plenty of good chatter and memories from a packed week. No-one wanted to go home, but alas, the plane was booked for the next morning.
Until 2019 then!
To see the all of the diocesan photos from the trip click here