Our Group returned from their pilgrimage to Lourdes last Sunday. We remembered our sponsors and benefactors in our prayers at the Grotto and during our Masses. We lit 160 candles for the intentions of those who had asked that we carry them to the Grotto and lay them at the feet of the Blessed Virgin. For the most part, the sun shone, and we were blessed to be in the company of Our Blessed Mother and St Bernadette.
At the Trust Mass, over 5,000 children, young people and their helpers gathered to give praise to God in the light and power of the Resurrection, – and, of course, we spent time with Mary in her Easter joy. The Grotto, that place where Our Lady appeared, was a school of prayer for Bernadette. She prepared for each apparition by kneeling and starting her rosary. The rosary for Bernadette was also a way of evoking Mary’s presence, a way of telling her she was ready and waiting. For us, too, it can be a way of telling Mary we are ready. When we make, or take, the time to pray the rosary, thinking of these mysteries of the life of Jesus, we are drawn into the mystery of God’s loving plan for us. As we recall each of the stories, joyful, sorrowful, glorious or the stories of light (the unfolding of the life of Jesus), we find the spirit of God enlarging our understanding of how God wishes to be involved in our own lives. Every time we say a rosary, thinking of these stories, we will learn something new. We can gain a new insight into the mystery of God’s loving plan for us.
Not all the children we take to Lourdes show signs of appreciating the Mass or even what is going on at any one time, yet they are the treasured ones in our groups. Our young helpers often have a remarkable kindness and patience with these children. Their very manner shows they instinctively know how to see and treat Christ in these children. They might not say this in so many words but that is what they do.
This is so faithful to the spirituality of Lourdes. It was Our Lady who chose a child with a variety of needs – medical, educational and social – to be the recipient of her special care. Pope Benedict XVI observed in Lourdes that Mary was, to Bernadette, both mother and teacher. We have no idea of the many things they conversed about, but, speak together they did. There is no doubt either that Bernadette grew and matured in the course of the period of the apparitions. She became self-assured and confident, and sufficiently theologically literate, to make her first holy communion. We are invited by Mary to Lourdes to be taught love. When our helpers offer the same caring respect to our young pilgrims, they too can grow. Many comments and letters from parents testify to the positive effect this week has in the company of Mary and HCPT, inspired by her invitation to come to Lourdes and learn the mystery of love. She teaches us all the importance not only of knowing how we are loved by her and her Son, but how we must love each other. The secret of the ability to love each other is to recognise Jesus present in each and every one. The contagious joy and enthusiasm which marks the gathering of HCPT is a great sign of hope. So many young people! The love which is manifest among the children and helpers, is a river of life, reaching out and offering a message of joy and life. This love which brings peace was the gift of Our Lady to Bernadette, and then, through her, to all who come to Mary’s Grotto. The child pilgrims of HCPT in a very special way share the gift of Bernadette. It is their courage, patience and trust which releases the great love which is the gift of Lourdes.
This is the lesson our helpers learn almost from the moment they join the group, and certainly as the days unfold under the inspiration and watchful gaze of the most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary – mother and teacher.