Lourdes

Lourdes Travel Blog

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Candlelight procession, held during the summer

This was my third time in Lourdes, and my mom's fourth or fifth. Every time I've been to Lourdes it has been a totally different experience from the others. The last time I was here was when I was 20, and the negative qualities about Lourdes (and the Church in general) really stood out to me at that time. Those things are still there, though - don't get me wrong - but I guess I'm more tolerant of them now. At least I have a better sense of humor about it now. It's like Disneyland for Catholics. Prices are inflated everywhere and you can't spit without hitting a souvenir shop full of glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary magnets (I got 6 of those for my coworkers). It seems particularly wrong when you consider that the customers are usually old, often sick or crippled people who saved all their money to come here.

Souvenir shopping
However, they are the most willing consumer victims ever. These people love it! They are full of joy and will cherish forever their giant 3D plaque of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I don't necessarily believe that God made this spring any different from any other spring, but this time my eyes were much more open to the wonders that faith can do for people, regardless of whether than faith is grounded in anything real. People are amazingly happy in Lourdes. So happy that they could almost get out of their wheelchairs or cots and dance around. The faith is incredibly moving. I think this revelation is due in a large part to spending 4 days there; previously we had only stayed 2 days or so, which doesn't really give you time to talk to people. This time we were sitting in the rotunda (they're awfully good about having alot of benches around.

The basilica, seen from across the river
..and toilets) and I started chatting in broken French with this volunteer who was assisting an elderly man in a wheelchair. She was so incredibly cheerful. I think she had experienced some healing of her own in the past, and now that her children were grown she volunteered for some time each year at Lourdes. There are so many volunteers - it's absolutely inspiring. Aside from their cute little nurse outfits (the guys wear some sort of cape, too), there are volunteers of all ages pushing around hundreds of disabled persons and running around with blankets and all kinds of things. Many are Knights of Malta, who you can spot by the cross patch they wear, fulfilling service requirements. There is a large residence for disabled persons, staffed and funded by charity. Lourdes is a truly fascinating and unique place.

We also had enough time to see the rest of the town, which I didn't even realize existed. It's a little town, modest and non-descript. The natural beauty of the Pyrenees is sadly overlooked by the basilica crowds. I found the woods and river and hills to be really wonderful - a breath of fresh air - and even the train ride out of Lourdes to the Bay of Biscay was blissfully relaxing.

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Candlelight procession, held durin…
Candlelight procession, held duri…
Souvenir shopping
Souvenir shopping
The basilica, seen from across the…
The basilica, seen from across th…
The grotto
The grotto
Lourdes
photo by: Cho