Background: Early last year I was approached by a few parishioners about the possibility of arranging a parish pilgrimage to Lourdes for the 150th anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady to Bernadette. It had been about 12 years since the last pilgrimage from the parish so I readily agreed to start planning one. Last Autumn I got in touch with Joe Walsh Tours and enquired about the possibility of bringing a group. When all was agreed on we advertised and the following June, 30 parishioners alongside six other friends left Dublin Airport bound for Lourdes. The following is a brief summary of how we got on.
St. Judes Parish Group - Lourdes 2008 click here for larger version
Wednesday 11th June: We were collected by the coach at 12 noon to make our way to Dublin Airport. When we reached there we all checked in and awaited our plane's departure which was delayed by about a half an hour. Once we set off on the plane it was a very smooth flight to Tarbes Airport lasting about an hour and three quarters. At Tarbes Airport we finally collected our luggage to be transmitted to the Jeanne D'Arc hotel about 20 minutes from the airport. We arrived at the hotel close to 9pm and had a very welcome meal on our arrival. After the meal we got the keys to our rooms thanks to Madame Cassain, the owner of the hotel. Some went straight to bed, others relaxed in the lounge and a few went towards the grotto in very inclement weather. We all retired at a sensible hour looking forward to our fist full day in Lourdes.
Thursday 12th: Breakfast in the hotel was served from 7am till 9am, most of us managed about the 8am slot! After Breakfast we met our JWT representative Claire who conducted us on a brief tour. We assembled at the foot of the Crowned Virgin Statue and were informed by Claire about the New Mysteries of Light on the façade of the Basilica. She also informed us of the Jubilee walk with its plenary indulgence. We then had some free time untill we assembled for Mass at 10.30am in the chapel dedicated to St Maximillan Kolbe. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Michael and you can read all his homilies at the end of this account. We had lunch at 12 after which we were free to relax. At 5pm many of the group headed to the underground basilica for the Eucharistic blessing. We had supper at 7pm after which we participated in the torchlight procession. Late that night some returned once again to the grotto for mass and for private prayer.
Friday 13th: After breakfast we boarded our buss for the short journey to Bartres where St Bernadette lived for many years. We visited the house she stayed in and then celebrated Mass which included the Anointing of the sick. After mass we had coffee and returned to the hotel for lunch. The afternoon was taken up celebrating the Stations of the Cross, both high and low. This year new stations have been added. The evening programme was the same as the previous one and again some concluded the night at the grotto.
Saturday 14th: After Breakfast we headed for Mass at the City of the Poor. This place is almost monastic in its appearance. We had a guided tour of the place which is primarily for the poor who come to Lourdes and who cannot afford to stay in hotels or are not suitable to stay in them. We once more celebrated Mass together and returned to the hotel for lunch. The afternoon was passed with people going to the shrine, doing some shopping or just relaxing. Some participated in the evening devotions and night procession while others concluded the night at the grotto.
Sunday 15th: After Breakfast we proceeded to St Joseph's chapel for Mass which was concelebrated by an Offaly corn priest who anointed some people who had joined us for mass. We then went to the area where Bernadette had witnessed her final apparition. We said a decade of the rosary and then went to wash in the new wells opposite the grotto area. Some then went to confession in the Reconciliation Chapel before returning to the hotel for Lunch. After lunch many of the group travelled to Gavarnie a very scenic spot famed for its sale of perfume. We spent a few hours there and returned to the hotel at about 6:30pm. After supper we went to the grotto to present out candle to our Lady. This candle cost €300 which was donated by many of the group in lieu of candles people had asked them to light for them. It was blessed and lit and after which we took part in the procession before returning to the hotel for a sing song. We gathered at about 10.30 and sang untill 1am which included many great singers. After which some went to the grotto for a final few prayers and the wiser ones went to bed.
Monday 16th: After Breakfast we organised our luggage before going down to the Upper Dolours Chapel for mass at the end of our pilgrimage. We then headed for the airport and again were delayed by about a half an hour. On our arrival in Dublin at 2pm we collected our luggage before returning to the parish glad to have arrived safe and sound after a very successful and prayerful pilgrimage. At this point I want to thank all those who came to Lourdes and to thank them all for the spirit in which they undertook the pilgrimage. I single our especially all those who cared for our sick pilgrims and our thanks go to them and indeed to one and all. I include also a copy of the Jubilee prayer (click here) which I encourage you all to pray.
Fr. Michael O'Grady, June 2008