Hannah Browne Article in Irish Catholic Newspaper

Published Date

Fifth Year student Hannah Brown's article on last year's ASM trip to Lourdes was featured prominently in The Irish Catholic Newspaper this week. A well written and extremely thought-provoking piece of writing. Well done Hannah!


Very early on a chilly dull morning, a group of excited teenagers were getting on the bus to go to the airport. Our destination was Lourdes, on a pilgrimage organised by Sr Patricia Lee RSM. 

After a long day travelling we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in the French town. It was a lot more modern and developed than we had expected. As we drove through the town on our way to our three-storey hotel, I was shocked at the seemingly endless lines of shops and hotels, and my jaw dropped when I saw McDonalds! I had expected to see a small shrine and a few small hotels, but instead I found a vibrant community buzzing with people.

Atmosphere

On our first night we went to Mass at a church a few metres down the road. Even though it was the same format as Mass at home, we felt different. The atmosphere was calming and pleasant. Time seemed to fly and you found yourself not wanting the Mass to end, really wanting one more song.

During our week’s stay we went to many places to learn the history of Lourdes. We followed the Stations of the Cross, depicting the crucifixion of Jesus; visited the town of Bartrès, where Bernadette lived with her aunt, and we learned a lot about Bernadette’s life before Mary appeared to her. 

We also visited the City of the Poor, where pilgrims who want to visit Lourdes can stay. We also had Mass outdoors on the side of a hill. This was a very spiritual experience that you would never get at home and this gave us a great sense of gratitude for our own lives.

Many other services were memorable during the week, the first being the Children’s Mass that took place in the Church of St Bernadette. 

Here children from all over the world came together in Lourdes to celebrate life and sing some of the happiest songs we ever heard. In an emotional sermon Ireland’s own Bishop Donal McKeown reminded us all that we are all made in God’s image and that we are all beautiful. This was a highly emotional service for all involved and helped our entire group to see the blessings of health and love in our own lives. The Anointing of the Sick in the Underground Basilica was another amazing experience. When we looked around and saw the huge numbers of people in wheelchairs and stretchers it made us appreciate the gift of good health and the burden of sickness. 

This was followed by the awe inspiring night time spectacle that is the candlelight procession. At 9pm thousands of people process around the sanctuary reciting the rosary in a variety of languages yet there is a huge sense of unity and community. The decades are punctuated with verses of Ave Maria. It is difficult to describe the experience in words. You would have had to be there to understand the feeling.

Of course, no trip to Lourdes would be complete without a visit to the grotto, where Bernadette first saw Our Lady and which in a way is Lourdes. When we walked down to the grotto you could almost feel the air change. You knew this was a special place. We lined up to slide our hands along the rocks and when I did my hand went all tingly. It was like nothing I had ever felt before.

Our last full day in Lourdes was busy yet still enlightening. It began with an early Mass in the grotto. Later, one group of girls took the opportunity to experience the baths and agreed that it was the single experience that made the whole trip extra special. Again these girls were struck by the devotion on display by the sick and elderly.

During all of our time in Lourdes we thought about our family and friends whom we had left at home. Everything that happened during those amazing six days was offered to Our Lady for them and their intentions.

In the midst of all this, we still managed to keep ourselves entertained. Whether it was a tense ride on the cable car to 100 metres; the perfect and beautiful panoramic view from the top of the Pic du Jer, an intense night of (mostly) friendly competition with the girls from Abbeyfeale and the much commented upon sing-song in the lobby of the Agena or the banter and the selfies, everyone on the pilgrimage had a special memory to bring back to Limerick with them.

The trip to Lourdes changed my whole perspective on religion. I saw the faith of people who had come to Lourdes and how they truly believed in the Lord and what he could do for them. Being in Lourdes and seeing all the people who were in far worse situations than I, made me grateful for everything I have.

 

Hannah Browne is a student in Ardscoil Mhuire, Corbally, Co. Limerick. One of 110 voluntary Catholic secondary schools managed by CEIST (Catholic Education An Irish Schools’ Trust

- See more at: http://irishcatholic.ie/article/lourdes-made-me-grateful-everything-i-have#sthash.U8OsNoz6.9QgW8xZo.dpuf