A Visit to Lourdes

When I learned that I was going to Toulouse and told my sisters about it, they immediately pushed me to visit Lourdes.  They went there about 2 years back with a group from our parish.  They said since I will be in the region, it’s a must for me to go.

Planning the trip was challenging, but in the end, everything was worth it!

Lourdes reminds me a bit of Salzburg.  They have friendly people, scenic spots and they give off a vibe of safety even if there are a lot of tourists.  It has a laidback charm of small villages where the happening things happen at the town center. In Lourdes’ case, everything and everybody congregates at the Basilica.

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My first stop was the Basilica, took everything in while standing at the garden facing the town.

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Then I immediately headed to the Grotto of the Lady.  There’s quite a crowd as the procession was about to start, but it was still quiet. Holy silence, if I can call it that.  When I got to the Grotto, there are pews available and there’s a short line for those who want to touch the rock formation.

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I got in line and was able to take a photo of the stream where the miraculous Holy Water comes from.  Not sure if taking photos is allowed but took my chance, and nobody reprimanded me anyway.  There was also a dropbox near the rock formation where you can drop off your letters. Actually there were a couple of dropboxes all over but decided to drop off mine (and my colleague’s) in the Grotto.

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The night procession promptly started at 2100H.  Since it was late spring/ early summer when I visited, the sun’s just about to set and it wasn’t dark yet. The rosary was recited while there’s a steady stream of people from all over the world, praying in different languages.

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It ended after an hour, which gave me a chance to walk around the compound a bit more.  I crossed the bridge to the other side of the Basilica, where most of the youth pilgrims are staying.  There are gazebos around which I guess were used for prayer and reflection.

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I returned to the hotel close to midnight.  I stayed in this modern hotel – Hotel Eliseo just 2 minutes away from the Basilica.  It’s one of the nicest hotels, and the rate I got from booking.com was a steal. The personnel were all friendly and helpful.  When they learned that I was traveling alone, they made me feel comfortable.

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I was up early the next day.  It was still dark outside but I braved it and went looking for St. Bernadette’s house.  After a few missteps, I finally found it! This is where she was born and raised.  I can’t believe that not much had changed.  It still has the arching road.  It was still closed when I got there so didn’t get the chance to see the inside.

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After that I went back to the Basilica compound for the Way of the Cross.  It was a steep climb and a bit scary too, as I was the only one climbing that time.  It was already at the last station when I saw two nuns praying. I guess I kind of scared them too 🙂

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After that, I ran to the crypt where a mass is being held.  That gave me goosebumps as I saw the relic of St. Bernadette.  Most of the churchgoers were elderly.  I think I was the only one a bit young so everyone smiled at me.

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Then I went to Sacre Couer.  I realized I should have gone here straight from St. Bernadette’s house. Anyway, it’s smaller than the one in Paris but still as sacred and peaceful.  I wish I could have stayed longer since it’s really a calming place.  This is where St. Bernadette was baptized.

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I was only in Lourdes for less than 24 hours, probably just a bit over than 12 hours.  But the impact of what I saw and what I feel can last a lifetime. I would forever cherish the moments I was walking in the Basilica for the procession.  I will forever hold in my heart the feeling when I first saw the Lady perched on the rock.  Those I would not trade for anything.  My trip was definitely well worth it

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