August 23, 2011

Burgos and Lourdes

Gothic Cathedral at Burgos - the City of  El Cid

Father Raymond Gawronski, S.J. preaching at Mass in Burgos

Tonight we are in Ars after yesterday took us from Burgos, Spain through the Pyrenees to Lourdes.   We are all still pretty exhausted from World Youth Day.  Yet many of the seminarians are overcome with some of the graces they have received in these days.  In Lourdes, we participated in a beautiful candlelight vigil where we prayed the Rosary and sang songs with pilgrims from all over the world.  The devotion was so beautiful, especially when you saw all the sick who had come.
The entry way to Lourdes

It seems since the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary continues to initiate profound, healing and life-changing encounters with the Lord. At this site, as is well known, the Virgin Mary appeared to a little girl in the 19th Century.  (Click here for a more detailed account of the apparitions.) Bernadette was from a poor family but had a deep faith.    This beautiful Lady, after teaching her how to pray, told Bernadette to dig in a grotto, to drink, to eat bitter herbs and bath in the water there for the sake of those who did not know the Lord's forgiveness.  Those who were sick were to come, drink and bath in the water, explained the mysterious person, to be healed.  In fact, since 1858, there have been about 70 confirmed healings - healings that defy medical explanation.  There have also been thousands and thousands of other graces given to pilgrims.  The Lady who appeared to her prayed with her and eventually told her that her name was "Immaculate Conception.'  The priest who investigated these apparitions acknowledged that it was a rather sophisticated phrase for an uneducated youngster considering that the expression had up until that point never been spoken in La Patois - the ancient mountain French of the region.

To this day, thousands of pilgrims come nearly everyday to drink and bath in the water, to go to confession and mass and to pray the Rosary.  Many of these pilgrims are sick -- and their faith is very moving.  Some are healed in physical and visible ways - for many more the healing is spiritual, an invisible healing of the heart - which is the most important grace of all.  Tonight when I asked the men about their experience
Crosses left by Pilgrims at Lourdes

 one said he was so moved by what he saw that there were no words to express it.  And then he sat in silence for a moment and said he did not want to talk about it anymore.  If you were at dinner with us, you could tell he was reliving a beautiful moment of grace.  It is for memories such as these that one goes on pilgrimage.
Waiting for the bus in Burgos - if your bus ever gets in a fender bender in this city, they have great chocolate!