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Lourdes: A healing pilgrimage site

Aline Haddad

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. © Salt + Light Media 2024
Every time I visit my relatives in France, I devote a day to visiting Notre Dame de Lourdes in the Pau region. It's an essential pilgrimage, one that gives me spiritual strength. The pilgrimage allows me to reflect on my Christian life and, at the same time, experience inner peace.
Lourdes is a small town nestled at the foot of the majestic Pyrenees mountains, and contains the miraculous site where the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous eighteen times in 1858. Soubirous was made a saint and canonized on December 8, 1933 in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, by Pope Pius XI. Mother Mary appeared in the grotto of Massabielle, which has become a place of pilgrimage for the faithful from all over the world. 
For me, Lourdes is much more than just a destination. Each visit to the grotto leaves me with profound memories that remain with me forever. I've visited Notre Dame de Lourdes four times. Each time, I have no expectations because I’ve already seen everything there. However, every visit feels like my first visit, and I am struck with awe, wonder, and amazement.
Lourdes is a place of refuge for the sick from all over the world. Every day, thousands of people afflicted by physical and spiritual ailments  congregate at the town, hoping to find comfort and healing. Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary offer a space for prayer and meditation where hope transcends pain, creating an atmosphere of solidarity and compassion. I found it awe-inspiring when my visit coincided with the blessing of thousands of sick people who filled every seat on the site. I witnessed liturgical celebrations, processions, and moments of meditation with so many people.
I feel blessed and privileged to have had the chance to visit a place that many people dream of going to at least once in their lives. Lourdes is one of the five most visited religious sites in the world by Catholics. For religious tourists, Lourdes offers an ideal setting for meditation and contemplation. The town is a place where the soul can recuperate. It’s a place where even the sick seek to experience miraculous healing. 
In the summer, thousands of people seeking healing arrive by accessible transportation to join prayers either outside (in the large square in front of the church), inside the church, or in front of the grotto. The area fills up, and no one feels alone. This scene repeats itself every day as pilgrims from all over the world visit.
In front of the grotto, where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, is a very important station. You have to wait in line to enter this sacred place. Everyone is silent, stunned by the splendour and mystique of the place. 
After visiting the grotto, each pilgrim chooses a candle, which is about two metres long, requiring two people to carry it. Lourdes' holy spring water is considered miraculous, and many believe in its healing powers. Pilgrims often fill up several bottles with the water to distribute to family and friends on their return from the pilgrimage, so that they too can be blessed.
People who think they're going to the grotto at Lourdes don't realize that the site is also home to the Basilica of the Rosary, an architectural masterpiece that bears witness to the devotion of the faithful. The atmosphere inside the basilica is serene, encouraging visitors to contemplate and reflect. 
The splendour of Lourdes is not limited to its sacred sites. The landscape of majestic mountains frames the town. As well, hundreds of souvenir stores surround the streets, where the choice of religious items is limitless. I always leave Lourdes with dozens of rosaries and small items to give to as many people as possible, like a missionary. I often think of how my souvenirs from Lourdes please the people I give them to. 
Lourdes is a unique place where faith, family bonding, and natural beauty converge to create an unforgettable experience, marked by inner peace, joy and healing. Make a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Lourdes in France if you want to renew your faith and enjoy a profound and exceptionally spiritual experience.
Many pilgrims pray the Rosary together at Lourdes! Starting on February 11, you can watch them pray and join along with them every day at 2:30 pm ET / 11:30 am PT on Salt + Light TV.

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