Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
The recent feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11th February, and the celebration at the shrine of the World Day of the Sick, turns our minds once more to our Annual Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage which takes place this year from 21st-28th July.
This pilgrimage always marks a highlight in the diocesan calendar, and this year particularly so, since we will be celebrating 90 years since our very first diocesan pilgrimage to this much loved shrine of Our Lady and St. Bernadette.
Just think of the many pilgrims, people, priests and bishops, who have made the journey to Lourdes in those ninety years!
Those of you who will join us in Lourdes this year will be following a well-trodden path of faith, in the footsteps of those faithful pilgrims for whom Lourdes has been a sanctuary of healing, hope, and refreshment, both spiritual and physical.
Each year the sanctuary authorities suggest a pastoral theme for pilgrims to reflect on during their time in Lourdes, and this year they have chosen the words of Our Lady from her canticle of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, ‘The Almighty has done great things for me.’
Each single pilgrim can surely echo those sentiments of Mary, because just to be in Lourdes and to form part of that great number of pilgrims from around the world is truly a grace from heaven.
The atmosphere of prayer and devotion at Lourdes, the different Masses and religious exercises, and the palpable affection for the grotto, the place where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette, cannot but leave us touched. It is hard to convey exactly the spirit of Lourdes to those who have never been there on pilgrimage, and people have to experience it first hand for themselves.
Lourdes has an extraordinary impact on the youth, especially those teenagers who go there for the first time. While in Lourdes they get an entirely different perspective on life, at variance with the world of their daily routine. They rub shoulders with sick pilgrims who they witness being treated with the greatest care and respect. They become aware that Lourdes belongs to everyone and discover just how much they feel at home within the demesne.
Our Lady does something to our young people, some even describe as ‘a little bit of heaven’, and their week-long pilgrimage will have changed them, even if they cannot fully explain in what way.
So to those of you, teenagers, who are reading this blog and have never been to Lourdes, do consider becoming part of our Lancaster pilgrimage in this its ninetieth year. Start fundraising now and you won’t regret it! Get in touch with our Diocesan Youth Service for more information.
I broaden my appeal those who are no longer teenagers and have never been to Lourdes. Perhaps this is the year in which Our Lady is calling you personally to join us in pilgrimage, and to walk that well-worn path like so many before us. And hopefully, like Our Blessed Lady, you also will be able to say, ‘The Almighty has done great things for me!’
Until next week.
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster