Fatima Pilgrimage: Arriving at Lourdes
Our own Greg Hartman is on pilgrimage with Bishop Binzer and 134 people from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, stopping at Marian shrines with the ultimate destination of Fatima for the 100th anniversary of the end of the apparitions there. His report from Lourdes:
Upon arriving in this most holy ground, the Pilgrims saw the town at around 7 p.m. I walked down after our meal, and participated in the candlelight procession. Can this be true that literally thousands of people each day arrive at this tiny town in the southern France? You hear hundreds of different languages in this procession, all celebrating that moment when young Bernadette Soubirous first saw a “young lady” in a cave/grotto near a garbage dump 159 years ago.
Moments later, you’re thrust into a tourist town with hundreds of shops packed with visitors. The pace is fairly slow, as pilgrims want to find that perfect statue, rosary, or some other piece of this small village.
By 8 a.m. the pace quickens. Pilgrims are in a hurry to reach the grotto, as if it might not be there when they arrive. A day long parade of Masses for every nation begins. As one Mass commences, a line forms for the next. The first full Mass I witnessed was a group from the Netherlands with Bishop Herman Willedrorbus Woorts. Though there was a language barrier, I could follow the pilgrims’ joy through their raised voices.
I walked away to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on this chilly morning. The sun’s first rays ignited the great rays of hope. Next to the river, I sat for awhile listening to the singing of the rushing water. Many walked past me, speaking several different languages. It was one symphony of faith and hope.
More than 1,000 petition request have come with us on this pilgrimage. I took some across the river and sat in the relative quiet and to read and pray for about 50 petitions.
Mass began for our pilgrims at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Joseph R. Binzer was the celebrant, with many other priests, most of them from Ireland, in this Mass for English speakers. Witnessing the joy of our pilgrims at Mass was incredible. The grotto is not large, so for this mass was not only filled with our pilgrims, but hundreds of others. Banners adorned the left of the grotto from the Carmelites in Ireland. The director of New Evangelization Sean Ater read the first reading.
After Mass, I left the group for a secluded spot to read and pray for more petitions, which we are carrying with us in a box. At noon, when the Angelus was said, I raised the box of petitions to Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes. Michael Vanderburgh streamed the Mass on Facebook Live, and soon after several more petitions came to us — at 4 a.m. in France – after people at home watched.
One hundred and fifty-nine years ago, villagers rushed to see young Bernadette, some with faith, some with skepticism. Now thousands visit the grotto each and every day. Some suffer from great afflictions, some emotional baggage: they all come for healing. When those first pilgrims arrived at the grotto, they brought themselves. Today, technology is able to transmit the wonders of this grotto back home. And though we haven’t witnessed any miracles we know of, a great healing does take place through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother. It was fitting that the Irish Homilist today quoted G. K. Chesteron on why Angels can fly: They’re not weighed down.
For photos from the entire pilgrimage and daily reports from Greg Hartman, see our Facebook Gallery.