Blessed days in Lourdes
A group of parishioners and volunteers from Farm Street Church joined the Westminster Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. The journey started on 21st July, with the different parishes, chaplaincies and the youth services travelling to the sanctuary by air and train. Cardinal Vincent Nichols welcomed the pilgrims in France and at home with a video. A reflection for each day was shared by various bishops and priests. Throughout the pilgrimage, more videos were shared on Facebook and Twitter with live testimonies and commentary on the experience so far.
The pilgrims had the opportunity to get to know new people and to meet familiar faces, like Fr Dominic Robinson SJ who also bumped into Christopher Brolly SJ, a scholastic of the British Province, who is currently on a summer placement in Lourdes.
On the second day there was a celebration of the Anointing of the Sick, the sick who are at the heart of Lourdes. In his homily, Bishop John Sherrington said “this focus of care and importance in Lourdes contrasts with the world where efficiency and technological opportunity dominate. Here relationships matter most of all. This love witnesses to Christ as he shares the yoke with others in his Body.”
The 2019 theme in Lourdes is ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’. This inspired the programme for the third day. Due to the high temperatures, the morning mass was celebrated in the Pius X Basilica, known as the Underground Basilica, instead of the Esplanade. In his homily and in his video message, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ reflected on the place of the Blessed Sacrament, right at the heart of Lourdes, and on the Gospel passage of the Beatitudes, which is “the blueprint of Christian living that Jesus gives us.” “We are called to serve the weakest among us – he continued -, but also to recognise our own weaknesses and need of God in front of Him.”
On day four, Cardinal Nichols presided and preached at the International Mass, inviting the assembly to join him in prayer especially for persecuted Christians. “The persecution of Christians is more widespread, more far-reaching than ever before,” he said during his homily. “So today we remember all those who have died for their faith, whether young or old, in Africa, in Asia, in India, in Europe, or in America. We pray for those who are marginalised in their society, deprived of liberty, of health, of opportunity because of their faith. We hold in our hearts those who languish in prisons or who face the threat of violence every time they attend church. We pray for those whose families have been shattered by this persecution and violence.”
At the closing Mass at the Grotto, on the day, Bishop John Sherrington expressed his gratitude, first, towards 'Our Blessed Lady for the blessings of the pilgrimage', and for the volunteers and all the people who made possible such an enriching spiritual experience. Later the sick and helpers were blessed with a relic of the true cross which was in the possession of Edward Roch, a member of the refectory team at the St Frai Hospital with Fr Dominic and an alumni of Mount St Mary’s College. The relic was presented to the uncle of Mr Roch by St Paul VI, when he was the Jordanian Ambassador to the Holy See.
Finally, Farm Street, like other groups from the Diocese, paused to light a candle at the Grotto, praying for the intention of all the parishioners and for the safe return home of the pilgrims, as a sign of our bearing witness to the Light of Christ received in these days together, heart to heart with Our Lady.
Wonderful pilgrimage with wonderful people
Last week marked an important moment also for another group of pilgrims, coming from the North. Debbie Reynolds, Pastoral Assistant at Saint Francis Xavier’s Church, is part of a staff team that takes young people from across Sefton (and beyond) with the Archdiocese of Liverpool to do themselves, their families and their communities proud by being, for example, part of the Annual Archdiocesan Lourdes Youth Pilgrimage.
This year was no different with a special group who gave so much of their faith, their service, their friendship and their joy to others. Debbie said “It’s such a privilege to be part of Sefton Coach Seven and part of the whole Archdiocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. There are 9 coaches representing the whole area of the Archdiocese of Liverpool that travel as part of the Lourdes Youth Pilgrimage. All the coaches give plenty of opportunities for the young people to be in one another’s company in prayer, sharing faith stories, great acts of service and most definitely having a lot of fun!”
This year 350 young people gave a great commitment to being totally involved in all aspects of the pilgrimage, adhering to an evening curfew and responsible social times, recognising that their service to others is the most important role whilst there in Lourdes. Debbie continued to praise all the young people and staff by stating “The Archdiocesan Youth Pilgrimage led the way among other Dioceses there in the way such a large number of young people gathered for the services, masses and social times. We were so proud to wear the yellow T shirts when on duty as the whole group was able to bring a lot of sunshine around the place even on a cloudy day!” Lucy March on social media said “I was privileged to meet some of the yellow shirts and to see the way these wonderful young men and young women assisted the disabled, the sick and pilgrims in need of a helping hand, nothing was too much trouble and all done with a smile and a cheerful quip, and they all deserved a gold medal. God Bless them all, it was a wonderful pilgrimage”
This experience of pilgrimage gave a great witness of friendship, faith and a lot of fun, definitely giving a hope-filled future!