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Reflections on Pilgrimage to Lourdes

posted on 28 July 2003
Speaking following his return from the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster said:

'This year's Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes was a time of great joy with the 900 pilgrims sharing a journey towards a deeper understanding of their faith. This was particularly true of the 200 young people who joined us as volunteers to assist the sick and infirm.

'We began the pilgrimage with Mass at the Cathedral of the Trees in the City of the Poor, with our celebration focusing on Our Lady's words at the Wedding Feast of Cana, ‘Do as he tells you’. This message has a particular resonance for Westminster Diocese as we embark on our own process of Diocesan renewal, At Your Word, Lord.

'At the heart of At Your Word, Lord is the creation of small faith sharing groups in our parishes and as part of the pilgrimage we gathered together in our own small communities, throughout the week, praying together, exploring our faith and sharing the experience of Christ's message in our lives.

'Seeing the power of these faith sharing groups in action, has given me great hope and confidence that At Your Word, Lord will bring real and tangible spiritual rewards for our Diocese. As a group we became more and more conscious that renewal is not our work but the work of God’s Spirit and it is ultimately all in His hands. Together we called on the intercession of Our Lady to give us, as a community and as individual Christians, the faith and strength to hear and accept God's calling as we prepare to embark on the first season of At Your Word, Lord in October.

'Two memories in particular will remain with me from this Pilgrimage. First was the faith of our sick. Although, in many cases, weak in body they all remain deeply committed in their faith. Their example became a symbol for us all and served as a reminder of the value and dignity of each of us, whether strong or helpless.

'Second, is the example of the young volunteers – who showed great generosity and enthusiasm. Many of our young people received a newer, deeper vision of their faith, and were encouraged to see themselves anew. I thank God for their work and for their example and for all that they brought to our Pilgrimage this year.

'We ended our pilgrimage with a final Mass and procession to the Grotto, where we left our diocesan candle burning as a symbol of our faith and prayer. At times the candle was weak and flickering, almost on the verge of being quenched but, as we made our final prayers, we left it alive and burning strong.'

Notes:
The following is a day by day breakdown of the key events of the Diocesan Pilgrimage.
Monday – Opening Mass at the Cathedral of the Trees in the City of the Poor, celebrated by the Cardinal. He spoke of Mary’s words at the Wedding Feast of Cana, ‘Do as he tells you’. This was followed by a picnic lunch on the hillside overlooking Lourdes.
Tuesday – Mass at the Grotto with other English speaking Pilgrims from throughout England and Wales. In the evening Westminster led the Torchlight Procession, carrying candles and praying the rosary.
Wednesday - The Cardinal presided at the International Mass celebrated for 10,000 pilgrims from all over the World. The Liturgy concentrated on the theme of 'The gathering of all Nations’, with representatives from the five continents. The Cardinal preached on the theme of 'The Lord is with You’, the message given by the Angel Gabriel to Mary. He reminded the congregation of the great consolation of our faith, that God never abandons us, and that this message of hope needs to be shared with all people. This was followed by a reconciliation service with the opportunity to go to confession with one of the forty priests from the diocese who joined the pilgrimage.
Thursday – Mass with Anointing of the Sick, when the 100 sick pilgrims were given this sacrament, supported by their helpers. In the afternoon Westminster led the Blessed Sacrament Procession. There was a profound and deep silence in the Underground basilica as the Lord was adored by all the pilgrims. The Cardinal blessed the sick with the Blessed Sacrament. In the evening there was time for a final evening of relaxation with many of the Westminster pilgrims gathering in the bars and cafes in Lourdes to sing and share experiences with others from around the world.
Friday – final Mass of pilgrimage, and procession to the Grotto where a Diocesan candle was left as a symbol of faith and prayer.
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 28 July 2003

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