'Blessed are the poor in spirit'. That's the theme in Lourdes this year and it was very much our theme on the third day of the pilgrimage.
The sunrise over the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception this morning heralded another beautiful day (main photo), but the temperature soon began to climb. We were meant to celebrate our morning Mass on the Esplanade, but it was already too hot, so we took refuge instead in the Pius X Basilica, also known as the Underground Basilica, where it was markedly cooler.
Canon Bernard Scholes presided at Mass and Fr Dominic Robinson SJ preached the homily on the Gospel of the Beatitudes, the blueprint for Christian living which Jesus gives to us. The first beatitude is 'Blessed are the poor', which reminds us that God calls us to serve the weakest among us. It is also a call to recognise that the Lord accompanies us in our own weakness. He elaborates on the theme in today's video message:
Our principal celebrant, Canon Bernard, is one of our Jubilarian priests. Along with Cardinal Vincent, they celebrate 50 years of priesthood this year, which they marked last month, together with other Jubilarians, with a Mass of thanksgiving for their years of priesthood.
Also among us once again this year is Fr Austin Garvey, who celebrates 68 years of priesthood. It is fitting that we celebrated his anniversary here in Lourdes yesterday. His presence on the pilgrimage year after year is a witness to his love of Lourdes, his patient forbearance of his suffering, and his complete trust in the Lord. His presence here is a witness to God's love among us.
We also took time to remember and pray for a special person who is no longer with us. Veda Ryan, chief pilgrimage nurse for so many years, sadly died in March. Her legacy lives on in so many ways: the way she inspired her colleagues, the smiles on the faces of the pilgrims she cared for over the years, and the friendships she made here in Lourdes. Chief nurse and good friend, Bernadette Herbert, wrote this beautiful tribute of Veda's life and legacy.
The medical team, who give selflessly and do so much to care for the weakest pilgrims, were very much in mind today. Yee, one of our doctors, shares with us how Lourdes has played a central role in her personal faith journey and what motivated her to come back this year to volunteer:
And she adds her praise for all the 'fantastic' doctors, nurses, volunteers and Redcaps:
It these truly amazing volunteers whose assistance to sick, infirm, frail pilgrims, the weakest among us, that makes the pilgrimage possible and gives it such a special character.
It is therefore right and fitting that they take their place and accompany the malades in the Blessed Sacrament Procession. Today, it was our turn and our privilege to lead the procession.
As it was such a hot day, the procession took place entirely in the Underground Basilica. Here too we were aware of God's love and care for the weakest. As Cardinal Vincent said, 'The Lord walks with us every step of the way. He is especially close to those who are suffering.'
As we spent time in quiet Adoration and then received Benediction, we knew these words to be true. His presence in the Blessed Sacrament among us was a reminder that Jesus is always with us, bearing our infirmities and suffering, no matter who we are or how weak we might be. Blessed indeed are the poor!
You can find yesterday's recaps here.