Our week in Lourdes
On arrival in Lourdes all first time helpers are given a tour of the Saint-Frai by the Chief Lady Handmaid. The Chief Nurse gives instruction on handling and care of the Assisted Pilgrims in the Saint Frai and the Chef de Brancardiers explains how the week is run, and how our 80 Assisted Pilgrims are moved around the various ceremonies.
As our pilgrimage numbers just under 400, our helpers are divided into groups. Each group has two group leaders, a chaplain and a nurse or doctor attached to it. The Saint Frai is more like a care home of 2 – 6 bed rooms with none of the usual medical facilities of a hospital.There is a fully operational modern hospital in the town where our pilgrims can go if the need arises.
We participate in all the Lourdes ceremonies and visit the Baths. Our worship centres on a daily mass, the Blessed Sacrament and Torchlight processions, the great International Mass in the Underground Basilica on Sunday, and private prayer at the Grotto. One of the high points of the week is the moving Anointing of the Sick ceremony, held at the Cité Secour in the cool of the mountains just outside Lourdes.
On a lighter note volunteers prepare comedy turns and songs and produce an evening of entertainment for the assisted pilgrims. On several evenings during the week a Café Society is held on the roof of the Saint Frai where volunteers sing and the assisted pilgrims can have a beer.
All pilgrims find comfort and strength to cope with the difficulties of daily life. Inner healing is the gift they speak about with enthusiasm on their return. This comes through silence and prayer, through service and support, and through friendship and love. All speak of being taken out of the routine of daily life to work with people whose needs are very different. For Lourdes includes all: no one is left out. Whether it is in the calm and stillness of the Grotto, the healing spring and the story of Bernadette, the candlelight processions or the human warmth and humour, everyone has a part to play – and Lourdes has something to give.