by Cheryl Campbell
I left for Lourdes not knowing what to expect, for I had never been to a place of pilgrimage before. I must confess that I saw this trip as more of a holiday; just somewhere I had never been before, somewhere new to see, so I did not truly expect to get any religious or spiritual experiences from it.
We soon descended into Exeter, to collect service personnel, as United Nations Forces from all over the world were paying their yearly pilgrimage to Lourdes.
After collecting service personnel, while getting ready for take off, a warning light appeared on the plane’s instrument panel, and a fire hazard became a concern. Technicians were called but no fault was detected, however, a fire engine stood close to the aircraft upon our ascend.
We all arrived safely and our pilgrimage began. Yes, it did become a very special journey for me, for I found myself becoming totally emerged in the principles and actions of those around me, as we followed the story, beliefs, and path taken by St. Bernadette.
I began cleansing myself in the holy water of Lourdes, at the Grotto, where Bernadette was said to have seen the first of 18 Apparitions of ‘A Beautiful Lady’; much later revealed as the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I believed a drop of water to be sufficient for my cleansing, for it is the symbolism, fate, belief, which I felt was of importance. I wondered did I indeed have the belief and fate as did Bernadette?
I did not know the answer, but I felt somehow glad to be in Lourdes, for every day I learnt something about myself and how I was feeling. My daily emotions surprised me.
Seeing the sick and disabled filled me with humility. I felt grateful for whom and what I am and indeed for the freedom of mind and body which I possess. Yet, those who suffered laughed and chattered, as did those who cared for them. Are these not all miracles? I think they are, and I am proud and honoured to have experienced these miraculous moments.
The beautiful grounds upon which I walked made me feel privileged to have glimpsed that wonderful sight of freshness, relevance, and total charm.
I continued having to learn patience; for queues were long, even that early in the year.
As the candlelit procession snaked along roads and over bridges I stood in awe, remembering many loved ones. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of peace and tranquillity which overcame me, night after night, as I pondered upon my own caring, peaceful, thoughts, as the Ava Maria was sung.
Lourdes was indeed a very special place, a place where miracles did happen for me, may it also happen for you?