World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 2

Tuesday – August 16, 2011 – 10:50am – In the bus en route from Lourdes to Barcelona

Since I skipped yesterday, I knew I had to journal today so I didn’t forget anything. It’s really hard to concentrate though because these countryside farms and roling hills are so beautiful and quite the distraction. So let’s see, where did we leave off……. Sunday night. Sunday night at 9:00 was the rosary procession for the sick. We got there about 20-30 minutes ahead of time and it’s good we did because the place was already packed! I almost felt like we were at Woodstock or some kind of big rock concert. Seeing the thousands of people there all to say the rosary, was amazing. Just looking out on the crowd and seeing thousands of candles was quite a sight to see as well. My favorite part though was the procession of the sick and handicapped. It was such a beautiful thing, to see the “least” among us be put front and center and treated like royalty. It was amazing too how a simple smile could light up their face. I like the universality of the rosary too. It must have been prayed in at least 5 or 6 different languages. Even better though was the Ave Maria sung between each decade. Though we didn’t know all of the languages prayed in, we ALL knew the Ave Maria, and to hear everyone join in was amazing. Gave me goosebumps.

After it ended, as we were fighting the massive crowds to get back to our hotel, me and one of the other guys ran into some girls from Colorado. Invited them back to our hotel to join some people from our group to visit and hang out on the roof of our hotel. As we waited outside of our hotel for them to show up, some girls from Argentina came to talk to us and they joined us too! So it was a nice little rooftop party. 🙂 Nothing too rowdy or crazy though.

As far as yesterday goes, there’s two things I’d like to focus on. The first is the international Mass @ the underground basilica. Since it was The Feast of The Assumption, Mass was planned for outside on the hillside. How cool is that, to be in Lourdes on a Marian feast day? However, due to the threat of rain, Mass was moved inside to the underground basilica. I’m actually glad it worked out that way because I get distracted more easily at outside Masses. Oh, and add to that the fact that the underground basilica is MASSIVE and quite an awesome sight to behold. Seating capacity is about 15,000 or 20,000 I think. To see that place FULL of people. To see the sick and handicapped front and center again. To see flags from all over the world. To hear the Mass celebrated in several different languages. It was another one of those “aha” moments that helped to remind me how universal the Church really is. After Mass, we took a group picture in front of the basilica. As we were getting ready for the pic, a man from New Caledonia (La Nouvelle Caledonie) wanted to take a picture of me holding our group’s American flag and have his daughters be in the picture too. Had the chance to speak some French with him too (New Caledonia used to be a French colony).

Later in the day we did the stations of the cross on the hillside. Now, these are not your normal stations. You hike up a hillside while you do the stations. And each station is composed of life-size bronze statues. The combination of the uphill walk plus the life-size scale of each station makes for a truly powerful experience. I was also feeling a little under the weather. My stomach was bothering me. My legs were also sore and were hurting me a bit, mainly from all the walking, and climbing uphill and standing around we’ve been doing. But all of that discomfort added an extra dimension to the experience. To literally feel physical discomfort while I did the stations helped me to be a little more in tune with what Jesus went through for us, and all of his pain and suffering. Being in a place like Lourdes, it also helped me to reflect on what it must be like for all of the handicapped and sick people that come here on pilgrimage every year. I realized that if they can bear with their pain and suffering  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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