Finishing in Lourdes

Dear Friends.

As I was saying in my last post, the youth program was just too much.  Afterwards, after walking around for a bit, I went back to see if adoration had begun at the youth area.  It had, but I do not know what it is with the French and bad liturgy!  They had all these weird things they were doing with the monstronce and, again, it was just too much.  So I left, went to the grotto to pray for a bit and went to bed.

The next day was equally busy!  It begian with a tour of the churches at 9am.  The man giving us the tour was a seminarian for the Oblate in the US.  He showed us the churches and then showed us a place he went to in his spare time while in Lourdes.  He brought us to a large sewing area where a Spanish lady was. She went on pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1981.  At the end of her pilgrimage she decided that she had to help the shrine out.  She moved from Spain to Lourdes and has been there ever since making vestments, albs, stoles, and altar linens.  It was quite beautiful to see how much Lourdes could impact people!

After that, I had wanted to go to confession so I went.  I got into the English area and waited.  It is a very European way of organizing things with no where to specifically line up!  We were all a little confused, being properly English and wanting to line up somewhere.  As I waited, I ended up sitting in front of the booth I would end up going to.  I saw him and saw he had his collar on and a rosary always in his hands.  There was a movement in my heart: go to him!

So, I went to him!  He is a priest from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.  He was great as he very much understood my desires of what it is I think I should have in my priesthood.  He worked with Mother Teresa’s order for a while before entering the seminary.  He was really great, very much a graced encounter.

I was very happy afterwards.  I met up with my friends and we went for an early lunch so that we could line up for the baths.  Unfortunately, though, we guys could not get in due to the overwhelming number of sick people that day wanting to enter the baths.  So our friend Maria went to the bath and the we three men went to adoration.  The guys with me would soon leave a bit afterward to go to an Italian catechesis and I would hang around with Jesus for a while.

Afterwards we all went for coffee with Fr Giancarlo (he is an oblate priest who organized a bunch of stuff for us).  Afterward my friends went to Mass and I went to make some phone calls.

We then met up for dinner.  I don’t know how many of you have had dinner with Italians.  Conversations at meals can be quite intense and they talk about anything.  They break the North American rules of dinner conversation and speak about both Religion and Politics!  It is interesting to hear how Italians hear things about politics in North American.  They have this idea, for example, that Bush is absolutely hated by everyone!  We had a very good conversation about politics, war, and economics.  Things are not well in Italy.  Because of the socialism of past governments, roughly 44% of a person’s income is taxed!  My friend is a resident at a hospital and so doesn’t even make as much as a doctor.  The doctor’s get flat rates – they are not paid per patient or per hour.  The doctor’s bring in 36,000 Euros after taxes.  It is not much to live on.  Teachers in Italy can’t afford to live on their income.  In short, teachers in Canada, in the end, tend to make more than doctors in Italy!

We went to the Rosary Procession afterwards which was really great!  I loved it.  After the procession I went to Mass at the Grotto (I was only able to get to Italian Masses the whole time there.  Thankfully, after my two weeks in Arnoga, I knew most of the responses to the Italian Masses.)  I stayed for adoration and then waited to go through the Grotto.  I also washed my face in the water since I was unable to make it to the baths.  The best time, it seems to me, to go to the Grotto is after midnight.  It is quiet and prayerful and there are not many people around.

However, it took me about an hour to get off the site because all the gates were closed!  Thankfully I ran into a guard who was kind enough to let me out.  I got to my hotel at 1:30am and went to sleep, my feet aching with blisters (a good sign I think!).

I woke up and met my friends for Mass.  After Mass it was off to Toulouse.  We had lunch there and my friends made their way to the airport to fly back to Milan and I went to my hotel.  I just relaxed there and didn’t do much.  I was too tired to do anything, and so I threw on one of the two English channels (BBC and CNN) because it was nice to hear English from native-English speakers! 🙂

A final reflection on Lourdes.  I very much loved it and want to go again and hope to plan a pilgrimage there as soon as – God willing – I am ordained.  I loved the prayer, the bad hotel, the bad food at times, the sore feet, the countless people going to Mary, etc.  As I said earlier, I was disturbed by all the stores that sold kitchy stuff.  I must admit, too, that I was disturbed by the way many people approach Lourdes.  I saw people with 10 5L jugs of water from Lourdes!  I found many people approached the place as if it was a place of magic, where God waved a wand and did magical things to us.  Yet, at the same time, it eventually came to me that this is where many people are at.  At least they are coming and will perhaps even leave with a stronger faith.  It also showed me faith is far from dead in the world: people still believe in God, Lourdes is proof of that!

in Christ

-Harrison

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