This is a my last dispatch from Lourdes. The pilgrim group returns to California tomorrow.
On Monday, the group traveled out to an ancient Romanesque Church located 20 minutes from Lourdes, the Church of St. Savin. It was built in the twelfth century, attached to an abbey that was established much earlier, perhaps the ninth century.
We offered Mass in the Church. The building, with high thick stone walls, had wonderful acoustics. The congregation gladly filled the worship space with a joyful noise.
The Church is located up in the foothills leading to the Pyrenees Mountains. All around the Church and the tiny surrounding village I found breathtaking idyllic views of Southern France, rolling green hills demarcated with stone fences and groves of trees whose leaves glittered different shades of green as they swayed with the soft cool breeze coming down from the mountains.
A pilgrim group to Lourdes usually begins with bright hopes as well as cloudy anxieties, hopes for a cure, anxieties about the rigors and uncertainties of the journey. As we began to draw close to the end of this spiritual journey, the hearts of everyone turn to gratitude. Hearts are full of experiences and emotions. Some of this is shared in groups, table conversations during meals, or simply while waiting on an elevator.
I am certain there are other experiences, epiphanies, or emotions that may still be too close, too deep, too overwhelming, to comprehend at the moment. One member of the Order of Malta wisely recommended the malades treasure those and ponder them in their hearts as the Virgin Mary did. What may seem confusing or confounding now — with prayer and patient grace — the Lord Jesus will unfold his truth and beauty in time. These memories bear seeds that will later yield much fruit in Christ.
There may even have been experiences or reflections that presently seem of little consequence. These too will later blossom unexpectantly. In short, the pilgrimage to Lourdes is only a beginning. Having come to be with the Blessed Mother Mary in this place, she now will be a companion as this journey of faith leads the pilgrims home again carrying much seed for the sowing in the days, months, and years to come.
“Those (seeds) sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mk. 4.20)