Have you any stories that you think may be of interest to other visitors of this site? For example you may have been to Lourdes as a "first time" Pilgrim and would like to share your experience or you may have some words of comfort. If so, use the panel below to write your thoughts and click the "Send" button to e-mail them to the Society.
I first went Lourdes as a 10 year old with my Mum, I can never forgot what I saw - armies of people in procession in wheelchairs where previously I knew one friend injured in an accident and using a chair, now I was surrounded by chairs. I noticed that everyone saw past the chair and saw the person. This taught me about compassion and even as a child, such impressions are life long.
I continued to go to Lourdes, Mum joined as a handmaid and I went along until George Farrell signed me up as a branc in 1977. This began a lifelong love of pilgrimage and till covid, I managed every year.
One year Cardinal Hume addressed all assembled in the cafe Gave and said "Lourdes was like measles, spread on contact", he was so right. Another Cafe Gave event saw Bob trying to march his fellow room mates back to the Abri by blowing a whistle , which just encouraged Mark to increase the volume of singing and a defeated Bob set off for the Abri alone with the chorus of drunken sailor ringing in his ears.
These 3 examples are why I love Lourdes. The love of the sick pilgrims and genuine desire to share the pilgrimage. The message from the Cardinal, spread the love and of course the absolute joy found in the hearts of all helpers in a shared spirit of togetherness, singing, laughing, praying and valuing our times together. Lourdes changed my life for ever, I stand at the grotto in awe of what took place and indeed still takes place...Ste Bernadette pray for us....
From Patricia Coyle:
My Mum, Maire Coyle, used to come to Lourdes as a Nurse with the SOLL Pilgrimage when we were all just kids. She would return on the train without a voice as she had sung and prayed and worked her way through the week to the point along the way that she had used it so much that she could barely speak. But she could still smile! She would come back from Lourdes with a joy in her heart and a renewed commitment to her day job as a Nurse at St Francis Hospice.
Once we were old enough and having visited Lourdes with Brentwood Youth, I came too as a Handmaid, as well as my Dad, Peter Coyle as a Doctor and my youngest sister Chris as a "Youth" too. I came with the Pilgrimage for many years until I had my first daughter - bringing her on her first Pilgrimage at a few months old - and then I had my second daughter. I have not been on Pilgrimage since 2000. Now my girls are grown, I wanted to come again and am happy to say that I have signed up again as a Helper and am enjoying the Virtual Pilgrimage in 2021. While it doesn't seem the same sitting in my lounge I have sat through the Service of Reflection with tears rolling down my cheeks...I may be physically in the UK but my heart is firmly back in the mountains where Bernadette first saw the "Lovely Lady". I joined in the singing of the hymn at the end of the Service....and fully expect to have no voice left by The Closing Mass on Thursday! Mum, who is in Heaven, will also be on Pilgrimage....singing and losing her voice there too ! (Mum, Rest in Peace always).
From Kathy in Devon:
I am registered disabled by mental illness and epilepsy. I have been on Pilgrimage with you 2 or 3 times, the last apparently in 2013. My father, a committed atheist, had heard that "people get healed there", and paid for my pilgrimages out of his own pocket. He passed away in October 2020, having, as he put it himself, "got me back", after medication changes and improvement in my condition restored me to some kind of life.
On Pilgrimage I was still at risk of tonic clonic seizures (convulsions), so went everywhere with one of your escorts, and stayed in the Accueil. For Masses, picnic, etc, you escorted me in a wheelchair in case I were to convulse in tight quarters. My mental state was also very poor. I was not allowed out of the Accueil without an escort, which included my roommate, who kept in touch during the year. You always put us together.
I have very happy memories of the closing Mass by the late great Cdl Murphy-O'Connor, and his fatherhood during the Pilgrimage, also that of Abp MacDonald another time. Fr Watkins heard my confession and gave me Absolution. I remember many times going to the Grotto, to the Rosary and Eucharistic Processions, to the wonderful Rosary Basilica, and the picnics, and Mass under the trees.
My best memories are of the row of taps of holy water, and each year sticking my head under the running water, as it was my head which was the seat of my illnesses.
My father lived to see the convulsions subside - I have had 2 in the last 5-7 years - and my being able to attend daily Mass, and serve in the Sacristy. Whilst still unwell enough to qualify for benefits, and having partial seizures daily, so still being unable to drive. I have a quality of life, which I did not have for 20 years. I believe his simple faith in the power of a Pilgrimage to Lourdes was rewarded. Please pray for his soul.
God Bless you