Can I let you in on a little secret? The only tears I cried during my trip to Lourdes were not good tears; they weren’t tears of gratefulness, of joy or of overwhelmed-with-love-ness. They were big, ugly, selfish tears.
I arrived in Lourdes with a large group of pilgrims, on our way to Madrid for World Youth Day in 2011; I had just started working for our diocese’s office and had been offered (ahem, told) to step in as a last minute staff member for the trip. I had never been on a plane or out of the country and suddenly, it was all thrust upon me. I was jet-lagged, grumpy and experiencing more than a little culture shock. Before our arrival, I knew very little of Lourdes or the apparitions that had occurred there. I had no idea how many people would be milling around the city on any given day; to say the least, I was overwhelmed.
I hadn’t even been there two full hours before I sat on my hotel bed and bawled my eyes out. The noise, the crowds and some of our rather … stubborn … pilgrims were getting the best of me. In my mind, this was the worst place on earth and I never wanted to leave the Midwest again; there were far too many days/hours/minutes separating me from all that I held dear.
I can assure you that my grim attitude did not last. Lourdes in the sunshine the next morning seemed much more beautiful. Mass and confession helped soften my hard heart. I made some new friends and laughed. I ate some delicious food and admired the beauty of the river. I prayed at the Grotto and filled bottles with the precious water. I sang with countless pilgrims in the candlelight procession and followed Jesus in a Eucharistic procession. The time that I thought would never end ended all too soon. We took our leave of Lourdes and continued on our journey to Madrid.
But Lourdes has never really left me. I know it was Our Lady working overtime to soften my heart of stone that first night in France – and on the rest of that trip, for that matter. I know she followed me home, quietly and patiently waiting, as she always does. And I know she heard my begging and pleading last summer as I went in for blood test after blood test to diagnosis my mysterious medical issues. She comforted me when I was scared and helped give me hope when I felt so lost.
The beautiful woman who first appeared to Bernadette all those years ago has become a very dear friend of mine; a mother-figure who has gently made herself a part of my life. And I am so very glad that she is here.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Emily is a wife and stay-at-home mom living the Midwestern dream with her little family. She is a lover of chocolate, coffee and comfy sweaters. You can find out more about her and read her ramblings over at Raising Barnes.