Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reflections on Lourdes

       Reflections after leaving the Blessed City of Lourdes 

 When one thinks of the city of Lourdes many different things come to mind for many different people. For some it is a beautiful city nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, while for others it is a place for wool and textile. For most who know of the city, Lourdes is a holy place because of the miracles which have taken place there.

Coming to Lourdes I, being a Catholic, only knew of the spiritual reasons for visiting the city. After arriving I learned of the others, which included visiting the castle. I found this fort, like others I have visited, to be a wonderful feat of stone craftsmanship and have a very neat history. One thing I found striking about this fort was its placement on top of a hill in the city. With this placement, the fort boasted amazing views which would have been very useful when one needed to watch for enemies. I think that the guards of this fort during the time of its use were very lucky.

 Being a Catholic I obviously came to Lourdes to see the Basilica, to fill bottles upon bottles of  Mary's holy water, and to pray in the Grotto. I did in fact accomplish all of these things but one thing I had not anticipated was the emotions I felt. The first place I became emotional was at the Marian Service. At this candle service, held at dusk, thousands of patrons come together to all pray the rosary together, while a statue of Mary processes around the immense plaza. This service left me speechless. Catholics believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and the term One and Catholic becomes very literal at the Marian Service. Thousands of people from all over the world all come together to pray one specific prayer. I found that the power in the unity of the crowd was absolutely astonishing. I find that I still am at a loss for words over this service and I feel as if I will remain this way because one can not put into words all that occurs every night at 9pm.
Candle Light Service 

View of the Thousands attending the Service 

The next day the group gathered again and we ventured to the Basilica and Grotto. Again hundreds if not thousands of people milled around this space. The first thing we did was to place candles in the alley of candles. Since everyone visiting the Grotto all have similar agendas, one finds that we all help one another out. An example of this was when an elderly man asked one of our group members to help him carry 5 of this 10 large candles. Our member immediately said yes and the entire group and the man walked down to the alley together. This is just another example of how complete strangers can come together over such a common belief and agenda. We later ventured to the Grotto itself and once again I was overcome with emotions. We all walked around the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette many years ago. As we walked around we all touched our hands to the rocky walls and touched Mary's sacred water seeping through the rocks. When I saw the stream which Mary created I burst into tears. Even today I do not know why but I do know that being so close to something which the Mother of God created should be cause for emotions. After the Grotto we all filled our bottles with the sacred water and then split up. I found myself returning to the Grotto to pray a rosary and just pray in the holy space. For me this was a perfect way to spend my time. While praying in the Grotto I could not help but look up at the enormous Basilica looming above me. I could not help myself to think about how we had built such an amazing structure for Mary and how it helped show our praise for her.

Candles of the Alley 

View of the Basilica 

 Lourdes is a wonderfully unique place in that it is holy and quite in some places yet loud and touristic right around the corner. I have never seen so many religious shops in my life. Frankly I am not sure what I think about this but nether the less it was a wonderful experience filled with many emotions and memories.

All photos were taken by RaeAnna Zinniel

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