Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lourdes, France

"How was Lourdes?" everyone wants to know.  It was amazing and brought me closer to Our Lady on many levels.  Everything from the Grotto where St. Bernadette met Our Lady to the frigid, unwet water of Lourdes to the bells chiming the beginning of the Ave Maria on the half hour just pointed your soul toward Mary who in turn always points us toward her son, Our Lord.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception appears to rise out of the rocks of the Grotto.
First, we started with Mass in St. Joseph's chapel, followed by a tour of the Domain by the Knight's off Columbus.  I particularly like the Lourdes Medical Bureau where you can see the 69 proven miracles and all about the process in which they sift through all of the of cases submitted.  You can read more about it here.

You can see how the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was built on top of the Grotto.

The Grotto has Mass nonstop in rotating languages.

Inside the Underground Basilica, AKA Basilica of Pope Pius X, it can hold 25,000 worshipers, but it doesn't actually have that many seats.  I'm not sure if they bring in what they think they need at the time.  When we went to Mass there on Sunday morning, we had to sit on the ground or stand.

The next day we went to the baths first thing in the morning.  I was very on the fence about whether or not to do the baths after reading a couple of things about it on the internet.  I was mostly nervous about the whole being naked in public thing, but I was assured by many that it was done very modestly and tastefully.  Brian and I thought that we would have to switch off and take turns because of Bobby and Judah, but they insisted that the kids could go with us.  We split up the way we usually do.  The girls went with me and Bobby, and the other boys went with Brian in the men's line.  Turns out having the kids go with us was the best thing because you get to go in a separate line specifically for women and children or men and children.  We were the first ones in that line so it wasn't a long wait at all.

When it turned nine o'clock, they opened with a prayer.  Then we were taken into a small room with a curtain to pull and divide it off in the middle.  The curtain was open and we could see the baths, one was a small child sized stone bath and one was a long shallow stone bath that had steps going down into it.  There were at least six ladies (maybe more) in there waiting to help us.  The girls and I put our things down.  I undressed Bobby, and while a helper watched him on the changing table another helper helped me get undressed by holding a cape out as a curtain.  The girls each had separate helpers too.  Once we were undressed, they put the capes around us and one around Bobby.  We were led closer to the baths and they puled the curtains.  The lady helpers led us in a Hail Mary in front of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Genevieve was the very first person of the day into the bath.  One helper removed the cape as another helper immediately wrapped a small, white, DRY! sheet around her and securely rolled it.  Then the two helpers, on either side of the narrow stone bath, each took a hand and walked her down the steps, all the way to the end of the bath, sat her down quickly, pulled her back up, and helped her walk back out.  The helpers repeated the process in reverse to leave Genevieve covered in the cape again.  They do not give you a towel because the water is considered unwet.

Hannah went next.  There was some sucking in of breath when the now freezing white sheet was tightly wrapped around her and again when she sat down in the freezing unwet water.

Next up was the Bobster.  I just had them pour water on his hands and feet.  That was enough for my little guy.  He did great and only cried when one of the helpers took him to dress him for me when it was my turn.

The lines at the baths
My turn came and I never felt naked or embarrassed.  It was very well done.  It was very, very cold.  I've never experienced anything so cold.  It literally took my breath away when they sat me down in the water.  I was very glad for the ladies there to pull me back up because I would've had trouble getting back up because it was so oppressively cold.  When I got out, I thought I was going to be freezing for a while, but really by the time I got dressed I felt warm and dry.  It was quite the experience.  Such a peaceful feeling followed.  We had to wait on the boys to finish.  While we waited the Ave Maria bells tolled and it was so peaceful.  When the boys returned, I was informed that Drew and Judah went in the baths and neither of them cried about the freezing water.  The original plan was to have Isaac and Brian go, but they changed the plan and it all went fine.  Daddy makes them tougher.  If I'd had them they'd have cried for sure.

Fresh out of the healing waters
Then we went with the Knights of Columbus up the hill above the Grotto and Basilica to do the Stations of the Cross.  That was a perfect time to do the Stations and it was on of my favorite parts of the trip.  The whole process of walking up a hill while meditating and praying the Stations in front of such impressive statues was beautiful.  It was like we were walking up with Jesus, but instead of carrying a cross I was carrying just about the sweetest bundle of joy there ever was.

Another (less sunny) picture of the girls and Bobby after the baths

The Beginning of the Stations of the Cross

The First Station has Scala Santa, Holy steps that you can go up on your knees if you are able and wish to do so.

All the Stations were life size statues and very moving.

Here's a couple of kids that were not affected by the serious nature of the Stations.

Breathtaking view from the top of the hill that the Stations are on: The Pyrenees Mountains.

Our Family at the End of the Stations of the Cross

Later that day, we had an opening ceremony in the Underground Basilica.  I had to walk the kids home without Brian and stop to get them pizza at a place across the street from our apartment.  The lady spoke no English or German and I only know enough food words in French to know what to order.  I needed to convey to her that I wanted to came back at 8pm to pick up the pizza.  It wasn't going so well until I drew a picture of a clock to explain when I wanted to come back.  Nothing like traveling in foreign countries to hone your problem solving skills.

Opening Ceremony in the Underground Basilica

Watching the Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony
The next day we had an English Mass at the Grotto bright and early in the morning.  Brian served in the color guard during the Mass, so I was on my own with the kids and it was standing room only.  I had to walk with the kids by myself from the apartment which in theory wasn't far, but, due to a large number of steps, I had to go the long way since I was wearing Bobby and pushing Judah in the stroller.  During the Mass I switched the three little ones around between the stroller, the ground, and in the Ergo to keep them all happy.  I'm sure it was fun to watch.  At this point, all the traveling was really starting to get to them.  The entire month of May was nonstop, go go go.  But we made it through.

Saturday Morning English Mass in the Grotto

Brian served as part of the color guard for the USA during the Mass

After Mass, Brian was busy for a little bit longer so I had promised the children that I would let them fill up the jugs full of Lourdes water.  They had been begging me the whole trip, but the timing hadn't been good for it.  It's a heavy jug we'd have to lug back.  Brian met us in a while after a lovely chat with a French gentlemen and his wife who had 10 kids, all grown.  Then we went in search of  good Mary statue for our living room grotto.

Finally, the kids were able to fill their jugs with Lourdes water.
Brian was busy the rest of the day with ceremonies and such.  We went back to the apartment for naptime, and then I took the children for gelato.  That killed some time and got some energy out.  I made dinner in the apartment that night.

Sunny Shot
The next day was a Sunday Mass in the Underground Basilica with all the country's military and a million priests and bishops and an archbishop.  It was a very long Mass with all the processions.  They rotated through different languages, although Latin seems like the easy solution there.  There was plenty of floor space for everyone, but many had to stand or sit on the floor, including ourselves.

Bummed that Drew's shadow got cut off! The tip of his head is visible.  This keeps happening.  He was the one cut off of our family selfie too.

We packed up and left late-ish in the day and headed to Nevers, 6 hours away.

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