Well, we’ve arrived. The final, tired Westminster pilgrim walked into their hotel yesterday evening after a long journey. There can’t be one of us who isn’t amazed to be here. Just a few weeks ago, Lourdes was deluged with its worst flooding for many years and there was so much damage done we came very close to hearing the news that our pilgrimage had been cancelled.
(Click on the images to the right to see full size)
So we’re very, very thankful; and what better way to express our gratitude and our joy at being here than to celebrate Mass. We processed solemnly into our opening liturgy in bright, blistering sunshine but as we went we passed very clear reminders of the ravages the recent floods worked on this place. The bridge across the Gave is still only half repaired and the underground Basilica, where we celebrated our first Mass last year will probably not be usable at all this season.
The opening procession began in the sanctuary where the Red Caps carried banners and a boat for the Year of Fatih.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols greeted us all warmly and invited the first-time pilgrims to stand up. Many people stood up at this point and it was very heartening to see how delighted they are to be here.
In his homily, the archbishop urged us to do three things, to remember (those who’ve asked us to pray for them), to talk (to others and to share our stories) and to listen (very important, we all need to know that someone is listening to us, taking us seriously).
Here is the Archbishop's homily (apologies for shaky camerawork in the first few seconds):
This afternoon was the time for catechesis. There was a good turn out in the Salle Notre Dame for a lively back-and-forth look at what faith really is and what it means to us.
This evening we gathered in St Bernadette Cote Grotte for a penitential service.
Father Stephen Wang spoke very movingly of the healing power of Confession and how we can be set free from not only our sins but our fears as well. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for silent adoration while those who wished went to one of the many priests who were there, to make their confession.