History of the Pilgrimage
The Pilgrimage was started following a private visit to Lourdes by Fr Martin Haigh, and the late Cardinal Basil Hume (then both Housemasters at Ampleforth). They saw the tremendous potential for both young and old, the sick and the healthy, and gathered a group of pilgrims for their first visit in 1953. The group consisted of 53 boys from the school with their parents and friends.
Initially run as a biannual event, the Pilgrimage grew slowly each year, and a group of 30 men made a stage in 1958 to mark the centenary of the Apparitions. From then on the pilgrimage became an annual event and grew steadily: 1959 saw over 100 pilgrims travel to Lourdes. The pilgrimage continued to impress the Lourdes authorities to the extent that in the late 1960s we were invited to become a member of the Lourdes Hospitalité, a privilege usually reserved for diocesan pilgrimages.
Copies of Fr Bernard Green’s history of the pilgrimage Not Strangers But Pilgrims can be bought from Susan Tams for £13 (including postage). Proceeds go towards furthering the Pilgrimage’s work.
The Ampleforth Hospitalité
The Pilgrimage has its own Hospitalité, known as The Ampleforth Hospitalité. It is a lay organisation and pilgrims are invited to join by making an Act of Dedication at the start of their third pilgrimage. The Hospitalité’s aims are:
- Helping members to live the message of Our Lady of Lourdes through the year
- Fostering a special devotion to Our Lady under her title Our Lady of Lourdes through prayer and pilgrimage
- Helping the sick, both spiritually and materially throughout the year by accompanying them on pilgrimage to Lourdes and by furnishing support through the development of personal contact and provision of practical aid and assistance to meet the needs and requirements of daily life
- Assisting financially or otherwise in the organisation and development of the Association and in particular to undertake the establishment and maintenance of an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes and the arrangements necessary including the raising of finance for achieving that aim
Membership of the Hospitalité is for life. Those who cease to be able to attend regularly are still considered members, and can honour their commitment through prayer and service to the Hospitalité away from Lourdes.
The Five Year Medal
Pilgrims who have joined us in Lourdes for five years are given a medal. This has a red ribbon and a coloured Benedictine medal, which depicts Saint Benedict holding the Rule in one hand and the Cross in the other. On the right of St Benedict is the poisoned cup, shattered by the sign of the cross, which the Saint made over it; on his left stands the raven about to carry away a poisoned loaf of bread sent to the Holy Patriarch. Around the edge of the medal the latin words can be translated as "At our death may we be protected by his presence." The prayers indicated on the reverse of the medal translated from the Latin:
"The Cross of Holy Father Benedict
May the Holy Cross be my light
Let not the dragon be my guide
Be gone Satan! Suggest not to me thy vain things.
The cup thou profferest me is evil: drink thou thy poison."
After 25 years service pilgrims are given a small gold Notre Dame de Lourdes emblem, which is worn on the ribbon of the five year medal.
In Lourdes you may also see some members of the Pilgrimage wearing a silver medal with a blue and white ribbon – this is the medal awarded by the Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes in recognition of a long term commitment to serving pilgrims in Lourdes. This service is also known as a stage.
The Pilgrimage’s Prayer Network is active throughout the year. More details about how you can get involved can be found here.
The 2000 Club is a lottery that has raised over £50,000 for the pilgrimage over the past decade. More information about this – and on how you can join the 2000 Club – can be found here.
The Hospitalité Committee.
The Hospitalité is run by a committee, and more information about this can be found here