Whilst small details will change from year to year, like most of the large-scale pilgrimages to Lourdes, the Catholic Association pilgrimage includes certain recurring events…
This takes place every evening in Lourdes, and creates a beautiful ribbon of light as thousands of pilgrims carrying candles process from the Grotto to the steps of the Rosary Basilica. During the Procession, the Rosary (a traditional prayer asking for the intercession of Our Lady) is prayed in a large number of different languages. Each Rosary reflection is introduced in the six official languages of the sanctuary (French, English, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish). Hymns are sung, and the procession concludes with a blessing by all the clergy present. Many CA pilgrims greatly enjoy this Procession, and we look forward to the evening during the week when our pilgrimage will be invited to carry the statue of Our Lady. We just hope it won’t be raining!
This normally takes place on the Saturday afternoon of the Pilgrimage, and is an opportunity to thank God for bringing us safely to Lourdes. During the mass we also pray for all the volunteer helpers who serve the assisted pilgrims, and anoint their hands with oil as a sign of our prayer that God will bless our work.
Mass at the Grotto
This is, for many, the highlight of the pilgrimage week, and gives us an opportunity to celebrate as a group at the spot where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858.
Blessed Sacrament Procession
This takes place every afternoon during the main pilgrimage season (which lasts from Easter to the Feast of All Saints on 1 November). The Procession fulfils Our Lady’s request that people should ‘come in procession’ to Lourdes. During the Procession, sick pilgrims process (by foot, in wheelchairs, ‘voiture’ chariots, or on stretchers) from the Adoration Tent on the Domain Prairie to the Underground Basilica of Saint Pius X. They go in front and behind the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharistic bread which Catholics believe becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus during the Mass). The Procession is a pilgrimage of faith in which we walk alongside Jesus, and ask for his healing and blessing. During the Procession passages are read from the Bible, hymns are sung, and at the end a Benediction (blessing) is given to all present, especially the sick. The Catholic Association will take part in this procession as a large group at least once during the Pilgrimage week, and on occasions our members may be invited to carry some of the liturgical symbols.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
During the apparitions at Lourdes, Our Lady asked Bernadette to do penance and to pray for sinners. In Lourdes we all have the opportunity to examine our lives, and to ask God for his forgiveness and strength for the times when we have failed to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. There are chapels in the Sanctuaries open daily for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or ‘confession’), but the Catholic Association Pilgrimage also organises a Penitential Service during the week when anyone who wants to has the opportunity to go to confession.
Lourdes is famous as a place of healing, and many pilgrims like to bathe in the waters of the spring which Bernadette uncovered in 1858. One morning during the pilgrimage, all members of the CA will be given the opportunity, should they wish, to go to the ‘Piscines’ (baths) located in the Domaine. The bathing ritual is short and simple, and reminds us of our baptism and the call to follow Christ.
Pilgrimage has always had an element of fun and relaxation to it, as well as penance and privation. During the CA Pilgrimage there is plenty of opportunity for fun, including the Tuesday afternoon outings, weather permitting! For a small fee, pilgrims staying in hotels have the opportunity of going on a coach trip to the Pyrenees Mountains. Our APs are taken by their helpers on a specially adapted coach to the Lac Vert or other destination.
Mass with Anointing of the Sick
Oil has always had a symbolic value in the Church, conveying healing and strength. During one of the Pilgrimage masses the Sick Pilgrims present may be anointed by a priest to give them strength.
Young Helpers Service
Occurs at the start of the Pilgrimage for all young helpers under 30 ish. It is a good opportunity for young people to have some time to reflect on the past few days and the rest of the week.
The CA Hospitalite holds a service during each Pilgrimage (since 2008 in St Joseph’s Chapel). During this service – which normally consists of prayers and readings – the organisation remembers its members; those present, those unable to be with us, and those who have died. All Hospitalite members welcome. Each service is followed by drinks in the HNDL foyer.
A joyful and lively Mass, this draws many pilgrims who come to share the children’s enthusiasm for life. This normally takes place towards the middle of the Pilgrimage and is the main Mass for the day. Children from the Glanfield Children’s Group organise the Mass.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations or Way of the Cross is a reflection (in readings and prayers) of Jesus’ final hours before his Crucifixion. Those able to climb the hill behind the Basilicas follow a route of life-size statues representing the ‘Stations’. Sick-pilgrims and others pray the Stations of the Cross within the Domaine.
There are three or four photography shops in Lourdes specialising in group photographs. We normally have a huge group photo after the Grotto Mass, as well as photos of the Hospitalite members, individual groups and dioceses. Say fromage!
Diocesan/Group Masses, Meetings and Parties
Each Diocese and group have a meeting at the beginning of the Pilgrimage to discuss any practical details. Each of these groups will also celebrate mass on their own during the week, and most have some kind of party or get-together towards the end of the week.
Passage through the Grotto
Near the end of the week, we usually try to have a ‘passage’ through the Grotto, giving our assisted pilgrims the opportunity to pass inside the cave and see the spring which Bernadette uncovered.
This is a party for everyone, but particularly for our assisted pilgrims. It’s purpose is to entertain and takes place on the last night of the Pilgrimage. It’s a celebration of the week before! Organised by the Chief Branc and Chief Handmaid, and the Hospitalite – not to be missed.
Going Forth Mass
This Mass, on the final Friday morning, is our opportunity to thank God and his mother for the grace of having been on pilgrimage, and a time to commit ourselves to taking the spirit of pilgrimage home with us. We are normally very tired by this stage of the Pilgrimage, but full of joy at what we have experienced.
Since 2007, the CA Hospitalite have organised the Pilgrimage candle, presenting it at the Grotto. This is done so with a procession from the statue of the Crowned Virgin. Find out more about this by clicking here!