A Day of Chats and Reflection

We’re now halfway through our Lourdes pilgrimage! It’s been a busy few days, but fortunately today was slightly less intense, giving many of us a bit more time to reflect on the pilgrimage so far.

The International Mass in the St Pius X Basilica
The International Mass in the St Pius X Basilica

Phil and I began the day by investigating to see if our malfunctioning camera could be fixed somehow. With some important events still to come in the pilgrimage, we wanted to see if there was a way of finding a solution.

A Quick Snap of the International Mass

After learning about a local camera shop in Lourdes the night before, we set off for it this morning. Unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered it wouldn’t be open until 10am, meaning that we’d miss most of the International Mass.

On the stroke of 10am, the shop opened. Before the shop’s shutter had even finished rising to the top, we entered and presented our camera and its problem to Julie, the shop owner. She quickly diagnosed what was wrong and managed to fix the problem. Merci beaucoup, Julie!

The many banners of the Diocese of Westminster, carried by the Redcaps
The many banners of the Diocese of Westminster, carried by the Redcaps

With a triumphant spring in our stride, we then made our way to the St Pius X Basilica, to catch the end of the International Mass. It was a shame to not be able to get there sooner, as it looked quite spectacular. However, I was now able to take a few snaps with more than just my phone’s camera.

Later in the day, however, I was able to have a drink with seminarian Tim and I asked him how the Mass was. He told me that for him it was “a powerful expression of the totality of the priesthood – deacons, priests, bishops, cardinal… It conveyed a deep sense of the leadership of the universal Church, leading and guiding the flock of Christ.”

A little bit later after Mass, it was lunchtime. Phil and I, quite remarkably, went to the same football restaurant (Le Carrefour Café) for the third day in a row. I wonder if the staff there has begun to consider us as “regulars”. Perhaps we should investigate if they have a loyalty card scheme…

Folks chatting during a time of reflection for the Redcaps
Folks chatting during a time of reflection for the Redcaps

The team then prepared for an hour of reflection time for the Redcaps, on the prairie. However, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and what had initially been just a few drops of light drizzle earlier in the day had developed into a light shower; this forced us to quickly find an alternative indoor space.

The Redcaps were divided into small groups to discuss various things, such as their week so far, their thoughts, questions about faith and so on. It was a fairly relaxed hour, which I think it needed to be, considering the general tiredness of everyone at this point.

An Afternoon of Great Chats

The Westminster Youth Ministry team then met up at the Beau Site hotel, for a social gathering with the school chaplains, teachers and parish group leaders. The Cardinal and Bishop also popped by, and we all had a nice chat together.

After the social, I went to buy a printed copy of the Diocese of Westminster pilgrimage group photo from Monday. But on the way I stopped by the Lower Chapel St Frai for evening prayer. I met Tim here and, after prayers, the two of us bought the photo and then went to Tim’s hotel for a drink and chat.

We could have chatted for much longer, but time was against us and we had to go for dinner at our designated venues. Back at the Alba, I had dinner with Brother John, of the Franciscans. Again, I had a really great chat about life, faith and everything in between; we even managed to get a bit of theoretical physics in there too!

A personal message to Mary

The final event of the day was the praying of the rosary, led by some of the schools in the diocese. Because the theme of this year’s Lourdes pilgrimage is “The Joy of Mission”, we chose to pray the Joyful Mysteries.

One of the young people praying the Hail Mary
One of the young people praying the Hail Mary

It was lovely to see the rosary being prayed by so many young people. For me, I particularly liked how a number of those holding the microphone prayed the Hail Mary with conviction in their voice: “Hail Mary, FULL of grace…” It’s easy to slip into the habit of simply saying the words without thought, but to hear it being said with meaning gives the profound sense that it is being said directly and personally to Mary.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols with some final thoughts on the rosary
Cardinal Vincent Nichols with some final thoughts on the rosary

At the end of the rosary, Cardinal Vincent gave a few words. Most notably to me was that “as you get older, you appreciate the rhythm and stability of the rosary.” Speaking from my experience, this statement reminds me how whenever my fiancée and I had visited each other in the past, we would end the day by praying a decade of the rosary. In this way, we would make sure that the rosary was always present in our lives, concluding each day.

Reflecting on the Day

Wednesday was an interesting day. There was less to do than in the previous days, and that enabled the opportunity for greater reflection on the pilgrimage so far.

For me, one of the things I reflect on most is the conversations I’ve had with everyone. It’s hard to put a price on a great chat, and I’ve been blessed to be with so many loving – and conversationally-gifted – people.