As I write this article, I am in Lourdes on pilgrimage with my brother Paul, his wife Maria and a number of other parishioners from St. Simon along with the Order of Malta’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. We arrived late Wednesday after a long day of travel which was hardest on the Malades (those who are sick and seeking healing). I did not realize till we got to the shrine that we are the first group pilgrimage since COVID struck the world and they are welcoming us with open arms. The last time I was in Lourdes, there were 10,000’s of pilgrims and normally there would be, but now it is just us with a couple of hundred individuals/families on pilgrimage. This is an amazing experience!
Yesterday was an intense day with the “washing of the feet of the Malades”. I got to wash the feet of my spiritual director, Fr. Dave Ayotte who suffers from pancreatic cancer diagnosed 6 months earlier than my brother. Then, I went to be with my brother as he had his feet washed. It was a powerful moment, but difficult for me as I held him and realized how much weight he has lost. As I put my hand on his shoulder and back, I could feel his protruding bones. Oh! How hard it is watching our loved ones suffer! It was an incredibly beautiful moment but deeply emotional for all of us.
After, we washed in the waters of Lourdes; well known for its cures and miracles. Historically, washing in the bath waters meant disrobing and fully submersing in the waters but with COVID we are only allowed wash our hands and faces and then drink the fresh water. This is not a simple replacement ritual. It was even more powerful as it was the instructions that Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception gave to St. Bernadette when the spring of water was first discovered. “Go and wash your hands and face in the waters. Then drink of the water.” There was only mud and a little water at first but Bernadette still did what she was instructed to do; she washed and drank. The waters have flowed ever since, over 260 years later! So it was a powerful moment for all of us to wash our hands and face and then drink of that same water that has cured so many through the years.
Lourdes is not just a place of miracles and cures; it is first and foremost a place of prayer and care. Here, everyone cares for each other as wounded and hurting individuals; all of us pilgrims in need of healing. At each daily Mass we celebrate, I carry all the prayers of the parish, especially those sent to me through the many emails, phone calls and submissions online. I promise to pray each daily Mass for all your intentions and may we all become caregivers to each other as we travel through life.
Before closing, I want to highlight two entries on this eBulletin: Creation Series pointing out how important it is become conscious of our impact on the earth and to make every effort to lessen our impact. Over the next 4 weeks, we will highlight a different aspect of the Pope’s encyclical Laudate Si’ and how we can work together for the good of creation. Secondly, I want to highlight the Farewell and Retirement Reception for Fr. Warwick on September 26 at 5p.m. Come and celebrate with us as we say our formal farewell to Fr. Warwick.