Lourdes, April 13-19, 2008
My participation for the first time to the Montfortian Pilgrimage was, for me, an adventure and a privilege, more so in this year where two important events were celebrated in Lourdes:
Undertaking a pilgrimage was essential for me, going towards a place in order to encounter someone, while remembering an event. This is what I lived in Lourdes. I went to the place where Mary appeared many times to Bernadette. I listened to her plea and poured out my prayers…While addressing myself to Mary, I was talking to God. While participating in diverse processions, I had the feeling I was answering Mary’s petition to Bernadette and, filled with emotion, I joined the crowd of pilgrims from the four corners of the world.
With others, I lived many encounters…Only those taking part in the Montfortian pilgrimage, were from 8 to 10,000 people, all coming to worship, adore, contemplate and implore God or to put oneself at the service of those that the founder of these pilgrimages called, “our lords, the sick”. They were 800 afflicted with illness, coming from 27 centers from all over France. I admired the indisputable fidelity of the nurses and the stretcher bearers also present …some with more than thirty years of service. The smile and the courage of the sick also touched me profoundly!
Lourdes is the real capital of fraternity and service!
The three congregations of the Montfortian family were very much present during that week, in each activity: prayer, mass, animation, and celebrations, in collaboration with our lay friends and associates. This presence visibly conveyed how we live our unity in diversity.
Symbolically, the three Superior Generals of our Congregations carried to the grotto of Massabielle the prayer intentions of the pilgrims…simple gesture but so very significant!
All the Celebrations were very well organized according to the events they recalled, simple and accessible to all and always evoking the poor. Certain words and expressions, often repeated as leitmotivs, such as: “listen, persevere, testify, stay firm in the faith…” deeply touched me.
The way of the cross that I lived at dawn with hundreds of pilgrims made me build a living link with the events of the Passion of Jesus and the passion of the sick and the handicapped who also live their way of the cross. The testimony of the latter directly addressed my heart.
The long illuminated procession in the evening with the pilgrims and the sick allowed me to meditate on the “the easy and short way” suggested by Montfort to reach God. Is not Mary celebrated and honoured in Lourdes as the Mother who listens and understands her children? I was very impressed by the contrast between this simple Mother captive in the tiny grotto and the invocations and supplications of this immense crowd rising unceasingly towards her.
My heart was filled with emotions when I let myself be drawn into the pool, while I remembered Mary’s invitation to Bernadette “Go drink and wash yourself at the fountain” I lived this event as a renewal of my baptism, chosen, freely accepted in an act of faith. I was touched by the tactfulness of the people who prepared me spiritually to encounter the Lord through this immersion.
To conclude, I lived a marvellous week, a very enriching experience where I renewed myself spiritually. I drew strength to pursue my mission with Mary. I still have much to learn from Her and from Bernadette.
All my gratitude to all those, members and friends of the Montfortian family who spent a lot of time to organise and conduct this pilgrimage, such a privileged way to transmit our spiritual heritage!
Sister Henriette Razafinindriana, dw