It's the first day of our pilgrimage, and what an eventful day it has been so far! Bishop John Sherrington shares a reflection on why we are here in Lourdes and how we must look to the malades who share Christ's suffering.
For many pilgrims, the day began with the Stations of the Cross. The braver souls followed the upper Stations, while those for whom the steep incline was too difficult to manage, followed the lower Stations on the plain.
As we completed the upper Stations, two of our pilgrims, Precious and Melanie, sang a hymn of praise in Shona. This hymn is typically sung in Zimbabwe when the end of the Stations is reached. It's a wonderful example of the vibrant traditions that enrich our parish communities, giving expression to the Universal Church in our own diocese.
After lunch, we gathered again in the Sanctuary for our pilgrimage photo. With the sun shining, everyone was in a joyous mood as we took our places in front of the Rosary Basilica, with our young Redcaps doing a magnificent job carrying the heavy banners (see main photo).
Meanwhile the pilgrims chatted as they patiently waited their turn to take their places for the photo.
Among them were Cardinal Vincent, Bishop John and Bernard Lavery. Bernard was made a Knight of St Gregory recently, an honour bestowed on him by the Holy Father for his years of service to the pilgrimage. It was at last year's closing Mass that Bernard was surprised with the news of this special Papal award.
Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Vincent celebrated the opening Mass of the pilgrimage in the Upper Basilica. As Bishop John told us in his video, there is much we can take from the day's Gospel reading about how Martha and Mary responded to Jesus. We come to Lourdes as Marys. At the Grotto, we are invited to bring our prayers to Our Lady who brings them to Jesus.
This evening, Westminster will lead the Torchlight Procession when we look forward to walking together and raising our voices with pilgrims from all around the world. What better way to show that, regardless of who we are and what our abilities are, we are all on the same journey, with the malades leading the way. Ave Maria!