Previously, I showed you around the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, one of the most visited pilgrim sites in the Christian world. The Sanctuary is built around the rock, Massabiele, where a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Subirous, saw apparitions of a white-robed lady 18 times. During these apparitions the lady instructed Bernadette to tell the village priest and build a chapel which many people would soon visit. Bernadette dug the earth until she discovered water, soon enough, this became a pool from a small puddle. This pool will now be the spring that many sick pilgrims claimed to have miraculously healed them. On the 16th apparition, March 25, the white-robed lady revealed herself as the Virgin Mary.
Pilgrimage Stages and Works of Mercy
You may get this guide below at the information office of the Sanctuary. You may also offer this with your intention at the end of your pilgrimage.
We attended the International Mass on our last day in Lourdes, on a Sunday morning, at theSt. Pius X basilica. TheSt. Pius X basilica is one of the 22 places of worship within the Sanctuary, it is underground and can seat 25,000 people at once. The Sanctuary has 6 official languages, but unfortunately, english wasn’t spoken during the mass. Of course, if you’ve attended mass before, your familiarity will guide you through.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament happens every 5 in the evening at the same church above. You may be familiar and attended to one before if you’ve been to a Last Supper mass during Maundy Thursday, the adoration always happens after.
Rosary at the Grotto
The grotto is the Massabiele rock where the actual apparitions happened. An irregular-shaped hollow cave houses a replica of Our Lady of Lourdes whilst the spring Bernadette dug continuously flows underneath. Pilgrims and visitors alike can line up to touch the sides of Massabiele and chance upon the droplets of the miraculous water. You can also offer a candle at the grotto and pray the rosary. At times, masses are held in the area, too.
Forgive the blurness of this photo. It is a still of a video I took while underneath the Massabiele. Flowers are offered near a glass-protected opening, where you can see the water flowing continuously.
Every 9 in the evening, you can join in the torchlight procession whilst holding ‘torches’ or candles. It starts along the river, near the grotto, and proceeds to the Doors of Mercy and back towards the Rosary Basilica where many pilgrims will be guided through where to stand. Throughout the walk, people of different nationality leads a decade in praying of the rosary using their own language. Of course, you may participate and respond in your own language. In between decades, Ave Maria and the Lourdes Hymn are sung. At the end of the procession, pilgrims are invited to exchange the Sign of Peace.
The baths or fountains are private cubicles of water where people can immerse in individually, sorted by gender. Photographs are not allowed and you are highly encouraged to pray whilst waiting in line. This was the most surreal experience I’ve had among the pilgrimage stages. Think of it as a whole-body baptism. You go in a little room where 6 people of same gender waits outside the actual bath. They will cover you with a robe as you strip down naked and wait for your turn. When you go in the actual bath, the hospitaliers will swiftly cover you with a white, thin and wet cloth and remove your robe. You will, then, be asked to say an intention or prayer before they hold you as you walk down the bath and dip your body. You walk out of the bath and return to the room, they will help cover you as you change back into your clothes. You’d think you would walk out drenched in spring water, but when I did walk out of the baths, I was dried up completely. The only trace I had was my wet hair, all else was just instantly dry, and no, I did not have a towel to dry me up.
On Thursday 25th February 1858, the Virgin Mary asked Bernadette “Go drink at the spring and wash yourself there.” This invitation is for all of us.
The miraculous water that flows through the spring underneath the grotto, at the baths, and through the river can also be bottled up at different areas near the basilica. Aside from the miraculous nature of the water and your faith to believe in it, they also had scientists take a sample of the water to test. They have declared it potable with little traces of minerals, so, yes, you may safely drink the water.
Way of The Cross
The sanctuary has 2 sets of stations of the cross, the upper and lower. The upper stations are life-size depictions of gold statues as you go up the paved way at the hill near the basilica. We have not visited the lower station (which is across the river) but I believe this is for the pilgrims who may not be strong enough to walk uphill.
Light A Candle
Aside from the grotto, there’s a dedicated area with arrays of brulière nearby where you can light a candle and offer a prayer. Candles from the Sanctuary are sold at 2.50 Euros, 2 British Pounds, 4 US Dollars. I saw other pilgrims bring their own and light life-sized ones in a separate brulière.
Doors of Mercy
The Jubilee Year is solemnly marked by the opening of a Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, Pope Francis wanted other people to celebrate the Jubilee, as well, so each diocese now have their own Doors of Mercy that people may enter. In Lourdes, it is the St. Michael’s gate. The Holy Door symbolizes salvation and protection, a separation of inside (order of the grace) and outside (sins), and entry to a new place of mercy, not condemnation.
We have not completed all the stages as written on the guide. However, the experience alone, of having been able to visit the Sanctuary is enough for me to recommend it to my fellow Catholics.