The Magic of Lourdes
Magic in Lourdes
My wife and I have been living in this beautiful part of the world for 15 years now and I have visited the grotto at Lourdes hundreds of times. No, seriously, I love the place. Now, though, I visit twice a week to collect the water at the spring but before I just used to go because of the calm and peace that one feels whilst there.
No matter what time of year or how many pilgrims are there, the grotto area is always a sea of tranquillity. Nobody rushes, nobody pushes and conversation is always in muted tones.
Last week two of our daughters came to visit, Stacey and Wendy both of whom have visited with us many times in the past. Imagine my surprise when Stacey said that she had never actually visited Lourdes – what an oversight. As it turned out the reason was simply because on previous occasions she had had a bad foot or something else and the trip was not practical. However, this time she was as fit as a fiddle so I dragged everybody off to the car and away we went.
It was a truly magical tour. Walking her through the mosaics on the outside and inside of the church and explaining the significance of the marble plaques set into every inch of the walls. While we were inside the church a young woman came in, went to the altar and sang an aria in the most beautiful voice, then simply turned and left. The thing is, it didn't seem strange, it just felt right.
Taking her back outside to where the pilgrims were all busily collecting water, drinking it or simply bathing tired limbs in it. I showed her where the candles are kept and she was amazed that, whilst there is a notice 'suggesting' a level of donation for each size of candle, there is nobody there and nothing is locked. The reason is so that anyone, rich or poor, can have a candle to light for a loved one – no one is excluded.
It was very moving watching her experience for the first time all the things that have become so familiar to me and seeing the wonderment in her eyes as she saw all the nuances of the grotto area. She filed through the grotto with her sister and my wife and I met them at the other end. I stayed outside just so that I could watch her reaction.
She wanted to light a candle for a loved one who had recently died so we crossed the bridge to the other side of the river where the new structures that house the candles have been built. I lit the candle for her and placed it in a favourite spot where I knew it would burn for a long time and then I went outside so that she and her mother could have a little time alone together.
I glanced to the right and saw that one of the new shelters had burned down. Obviously a 'candle mishap'. The heat must have been intense as these things are made of cedar and oak and the whole of one side had burned away. To be honest, I just found it mildly interesting and pondered on the wisdom of putting large candles in a wooden hut when the wind is blowing – until I looked to the right at the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that faced the hut.
This picture shows the plinth on which the statue sits and it is plain to see just how fiercely the fire burned as the whole of the front of this slate plinth is shattered with shards of slate covering the ground. It must have simply exploded in the heat. But.
Now look at the condition of the statue which sits upon the plinth. It is a little blackened with soot but otherwise untouched. No cracks no fissures – nothing! Even the original blue sash is still there and still blue. Clearly someone else had been just as amazed and impressed as I was because they had placed a candle in front of the statue. A bit of TLC and Our Lady will be as good as new. It instantly reminded me of the miraculous carving at Notre Dame de Garaison which is a stunning monastery about 2 kilometres from my house Though that is a story for another blog.