It is always amazing how quickly our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes comes to a close. One moment we were celebrating Mass at the Grotto this morning and, seemingly, the next we were lighting our diocesan candle as our farewell to this place of miracles, as Bishop John Sherrington calls it in his video message today:
In this place of miracles, our pilgrimage has been enriched by all the volunteers, whether it is the medical team looking after pilgrims requiring care or the helpers and Redcaps looking after assisted pilgrims, all done with great love and good cheer, even on the hottest days. Other volunteers looked after logistics and guided us during our services and processions, ensuring that every pilgrim was well supported and felt included. Even those among us for whom this was their first time seemed to know exactly where they were supposed to be. To all of these and many other volunteers, we pilgrims salute you and thank you!
At our closing Mass at the Grotto, Bishop John Sherrington began his homily by thanking 'Our Blessed Lady for the blessings of the pilgrimage'.
On this pilgrimage we come to understand that what makes us happy is to love and serve God, explained Bishop John: 'It is how we are made, it is in our spiritual DNA to love and serve.'
Lourdes is also a place that changes lives. Bishop John revealed: 'It changed my life when a visit 39 years ago confirmed my sense of being called to be a priest.'
Continuing, he said: 'I thank Our Blessed Lady for her attentiveness. Fr Austin is the witness to the attentiveness of Our Blessed Lady who cares for him and wraps him in her compassionate and protecting veil of love. Thank you to our priests.'
To Bishop John's thanks, we pilgrims thank God for our priests and bishops on the pilgrimage, who ministered to us in so many ways, celebrating Masses, hearing our confessions, anointing the sick, walking with us, encouraging us and sharing this pilgrimage with us.
In the afternoon, we gathered for the closing ceremony. The Redcaps led us as we recited the Mysteries of Light, which remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world and that we, too, are to take that light home to all we meet. After the closing prayer giving thanks for the graces we have received on this pilgrimage, we made our way to the Chapelle de Lumière to light the diocesan candle, singing hymns and reciting prayers along the way.
Bishop John lit the candle, which bears the prayers of all of us on the pilgrimage, all who have asked our prayers, and all in our diocese.
As we leave our prayers behind, we take home the blessings and graces we have received, and we renew our determination to share the Light of Christ with everyone at home.
Some pilgrims begin the journey home today by coach, while others fly home tomorrow. We wish everyone a safe journey home. And we thank all at home who have journeyed with us and prayed for us during this pilgrimage.
You can find day 4's recap here.