The Pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2015
The 67th Montfortian Pilgrimage to Lourdes took place from April 13 to 18, 2015, led by the theme of the Pilgrimages of the year: “Mary and Bernadette, messengers of the Good News.” Once again the Brothers of St. Gabriel, about forty of them, were present for the pilgrimage which brought together some 5,000 pilgrims, including 700 patients, including three Brothers from La Hillière Infirmary, overwhelmed by the care and the affection of some 3,700 volunteers of the Montfortian Hospitality. Although we no longer find Brothers as stretcher-bearers or nurses, they continue to render good services as spiritual animators, masters of ceremony, singers, and interpreters for the deaf pilgrims. Taking advantage of the school holidays, a good number of youngsters took part in the pilgrimage. Three Brothers of the International Community of Saint-Laurent were among the animators. A memorable experience for all.
Members of the General and Provincial teams of the Company of Mary (SMM), the Provincial Superior of the Daughters of Wisdom and one councillor were also present. Accompanying Bro. John Kallarackal, the Superior General, Bros. André Roberge, the General Bursar and Georges Le Vern, the Secretary General, had come from Rome. Bro. Claude Marsaud, the Provincial Superior, and Bro. Gérard Égron, the Co-Provincial, represented the Province of France. Sharing the same hotel, they could strengthen their family bonds. A meeting was organized to present the various programmes of the Tercentenary celebrations. Despite limited human resources, the planning was meticulous and this Montfortian year will be memorable, without any doubt.
To take part in a pilgrimage, gives the grace to live spiritual experiences several times a day. The Eucharist, always solemn, is enhanced by the quality of the singing of the choir, composed of pilgrims themselves, and by the piety of the participants. The St. Pius X Basilica has completely healed the wounds caused by the catastrophic floods in previous years. The Way of the Cross, in the mountain, took place in a bright sun. A rare experience, at this time of the year, at Lourdes. Besides, a bright sun and a warm weather accompanied the pilgrims almost every day. Only on celebration of the Marian Procession for the sick, on Thursday evening, had to be cancelled because of the rain. Those, Superiors General in the front row, who went to carry the candles to the grotto, at the end of the closing celebration, were also granted with a good and beautiful blessing.
The highlight of the pilgrimage, therefore, is that of the blessing of the sick where many received the Sacrament, and the commitment of the volunteers, a hundred of them, who promised, in front of the whole congregation to serve, to testify and to love those who were entrusted to their care. They already participated in three Pilgrimages, as nurses or stretcher-bearers. They know the weight of the promise and what service means.
The International Mass was another great spiritual experience, with 15,000 participants, including many young people. They could go from exuberance to deep meditation, in no time. They are so joyful and vibrant. It was a genuine testimony of the youth of the Church.
The President of the Pilgrimage, Bishop Wattebled, of Nîmes, who presided, at the same time, also the Pilgrimage of his own diocese, was attuned to the event. By short homilies, but impactful, he passed on the message of Lourdes to an audience which was large and varied.
Of course, as an excellent tradition, the Brothers and their friends: deaf, deaf-and-blind, associates, collaborators, well-wishers, gathered with pleasure, to listen to the news by the Superiors, to sign postcards to be sent around the world and enjoy some quality local products.
The Montfortian Pilgrimage to Lourdes is a great moment to be lived not only for its strong spiritual experiences, but also for the encounter where the family spirit is primary. Given the anxiety that prevails today in the heart of so many men and women who no longer understand the world in which they live, consecrated persons have to give witness to their faith and their humble hope. This is done naturally. Just sit or walk with someone, the conversation starts, and quickly passes to religious subjects. The scarf, the badge, become signs of recognition and belonging that generate trust and confidence.
Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those, and there are more and more laity, who dedicated themselves, year-round, to plan the Pilgrimage and make it a success. Our profound admiration for those members of the Montfortian Hospitality: leaders, doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, all volunteers, who devote themselves for a week tirelessly and without complaint to the service of their sick brothers and sisters. A moving testimony. The Good News is lived with simplicity, witnessed and radiated. Messengers as “Mary and Bernadette, messengers of the Good News.”
(Bro. Georges Le Vern)