By Janice M George with pilgrims’ collaboration, St Charles Borromeo RC
It was with great expectancy and excitement that 55 pilgrims embarked upon our first journey of faith under the spiritual guidance of Frs Ian Taylor and Cornelius Philip FMI, on August 2–20, to glimpse Paris and Spain and be absorbed in the spirituality and reverence of Lourdes, Fatima and Medugorje.
What is a ‘pilgrim’s journey’? It is a willingness to begin an interior journey where memories would never fade but would be nurtured spiritually, bear fruits of love, patience and forgiveness like the sower’s seed on fertile ground.
Paris and Spain
We visited the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. A memorable sight was the relic alleged to be the very same crown of thorns that was worn by Our Lord. Through the high altar we could see the La Pieta sculpture where with ingenuity and inspired imagery, the artist was able to capture the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We visited Rue de Bac where the apparition of Our Lady to Catherine Labouré occurred in 1830, Our Lady’s first apparition to the modern world. She warned of uprising, turmoils and revolutions in France and Europe but she said that she was interceding for the world. From this apparition, we got the Miraculous Medal with the words engraved “O Mary Conceived Without Sin, Pray for Us”. We saw the incorrupt body of Catherine which is kept in a glass case in the church.
On a night-time cruise along the Seine River, we were captivated by the Eiffel Tower which glowed and scintillated but presented itself as a massive structure at daytime. In Spain, we visited Burgos and Santiago de Compostela.
It is at this place Bernadette Soubirous witnessed 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Each stage of our journey, we were reminded by our spiritual directors to listen to the voice of Jesus through His messengers. In Lourdes, it is Mary and Bernadette asking us to pursue and peruse the Word through the Bible.
We visited the grotto where Bernadette found the holy fountain. Each pilgrim awaited in anticipation the unique ‘pool’ experience. Individually, we took the icy plunge, voiced our petitions and were whisked out of the pool. On dressing, no one could explain that despite the submergence we were completely dry! This phenomenon defied logic. We believed.
The Station of the Cross was performed at the High Level. At the 15th Station, the rolled-back giant stone re-enacted The Lord’s Resurrection. It renewed our belief in the Risen Christ.
We zealously sought the Sacrament of Reconciliation, contemplatively adored Jesus and enthusiastically joined the nightly candlelight procession in which the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is carried aloft followed by hundreds of pilgrims. We accepted the message of Lourdes: Poverty; Prayer; Penance and Participation in the spiritual building of the Church. It was at Lourdes in 1858 that Mary revealed herself saying “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
There was an invisible and convincing presence of the three children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia particularly at Aljustred, Fatima, the hometown of the three shepherds.
The nightly candlelight procession and recitation of the rosary was a further step in our commitment to deepen our relationship with Jesus through the gentle prodding of his Mother. As we performed the Station of the Cross on our way to St Stephen’s Chapel, we noted the messages of the three children engraved in stone: “…suffering is redemptive…”; “…love Jesus in spite of suffering…”; “… suffer for the sins of the world….”
At Medugorje, six witnesses, visionaries, testify that the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to them every day and for some of them, up to this present time. Since 1981, the Virgin calls for prayer, fasting and conversion as a matter of urgency indicating that the world is on the verge of serious disaster if conversion does not occur.
Our Lady’s purpose for coming to earth is to guide each one of us back to her Son, Jesus. She does this by leading us towards a life of holiness through the hundreds of messages she has given to the world through the visionaries. Mary says that the time for decision is NOW! Our Lady’s call is URGENT. We must open our hearts today and begin to change our lives.
We visited the Hill of the Apparitions and were amazed by those who walked on the naked rocks barefooted! Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament meant kneeling before the Lord throughout the one-hour service with Gregorian music in the background.
At 6.40 p.m. every day the church bells peal, signalling the appearance of the apparition to the visionaries. Some of us dared to climb the rocky terrain of Cross Hill at 520 metres. It was an euphoric feeling to reach the peak and to pray at the foot of the cross.
Our journey of faith has just begun. We have just scraped the surface of Holiness. We give thanks to Jesus for His eternal presence. We give thanks to our Mother for tirelessly pointing us to her Son.
We thank our two priests: Fr Ian the ‘wake-up-call’ priest as he rapped on every pilgrim’s door singing “Jesus in the morning…Jesus til the sun goes down”; and Fr Cornelius who encouraged us to encounter. We thank our pilgrimage coordinator, Christine and her team namely, Cheryl, Rhonda, Anne and Sharon.