Saturday 5 June 2010


We organise our own pilgrimage activities in order to keep costs down. For the past few years, we have tried to have some sort of optional afternoon excursion: a visit to the Grottes de Betharram (caves in the Pyrenees) and a trip up to the Pic du Jer on the funicular railway have featured previously.

This year we decided to pay a visit to Bartrès, the village where Bernadette's wet-nurse lived. Bernadette's mother, Louise, was very badly burned when a candle fell on her, and she couldn't breastfeed Bernadette. Marie Laguës, a customer of François Soubirous, had just lost her own child, and she agreed to nurse Bernadette for 5 francs a month, paid in cash or flour. Bernadette stayed with Marie until she was 2 years old.

In the Autumn of 1857, Bernadette returned to Bartrès. The Soubirous family had fallen on hard times, and it was felt that Bernadette, left with severe asthma after contracting cholera, would benefit from the healthier surroundings and better food. It also meant that there would be one less mouth to feed at the Cachot, the old prison building where the Soubirous family was forced to live. Bernadette was sent to work for her old wet-nurse, looking after the children, tending the sheep and doing various jobs around the farm.

Part of the deal struck between the two families was that Bernadette, who hadn't been able to attend school regularly, would be given the chance to go to school and attend catechism classes. Unfortunately, work on the farm took priority. Marie Laguës attempted to teach Bernadette her catechism, but became impatient when Bernadette found it difficult. Finally, the Parish Priest at Bartrès left to join a Benedictine community, and Bernadette realised that there was no chance of making her first Communion at Bartrès. She made the decision to return to Lourdes in January 1858. Three weeks later, Our Lady appeared in the Grotto at Massabielle.

I didn't get a chance to visit the sheepfold, as the path up from the town would have been too steep for me. I did, however, get to visit the parish church. St. Bernadette would have seen this same altarpiece... (ignore the wooden table in front!)

A little side altar to St. Bernadette...

The choir loft of the church...

A confessional... (sadly no longer in use, from the look of it.)

Another side-altar - this one to Our Lady...

I persuaded the group to stand for a photo, as the view from the graveyard was just so perfect...

The Laguës' farmhouse...

The bed where St. Bernadette slept...

Finally, St. Bernadette would wash clothes here...

Next year, we are going to see if it will be possible to celebrate Mass in the church in Bartrès. The opportunity to attend Mass in the church St. Bernadette knew and loved will be a very special one.

Back In The Real World...

Well, I'm back home again. The pilgrimage to Lourdes was really wonderful... I was almost disappointed that the Icelandic volcano hadn't prevented us leaving...

Every cloud has a silver lining: at least I've had a chance to download my photos, and upload some of them to Flickr. I have realised that Flickr works best if you choose a few photos, rather than uploading the whole lot indiscriminately.

The weather was glorious: we had one morning where there was a dip in temperature and that very fine, misty rain (it would have to be the morning we had scheduled the group photo) but it had stopped by the time we had finished Mass. My camera was put to very good use, and I think one or two of my photos are really stunning.

I will post more about Lourdes later, but I just want to share a little joke which always makes me smile every time I enter the Domaine. Along the ramps there are various statues of saints. At the very bottom, there are two statues...

St. Remy is on the left. The one on the right is... you guessed it... St. Martin.

Now that had to be deliberate...

As in-jokes go, that's one of the best...

Thursday 3 June 2010

Last Night In Lourdes...

Alas, tonight is my last night here in Lourdes.

I was up ridiculously late last night, desperately trying to learn the
sequence for our Corpus Christi High Mass this morning. When, at
3:30am, I dropped off for five minutes, and woke with a start still
clutching the hymn book, I realised that it was time to call it a

This morning's Mass was back in the parish church in Lourdes. The
acoustics in the crypt covered a multitude of errors, and we managed
somehow. I also sang Mozart's Ave Verum.

It was incredibly moving to have Mass in the parish church on the day
that St. Bernadette made her First Holy Communion. We shall be back
next year too, if they'll have us. We finished up with a procession
around the crypt (the steep stairs, and the stream of tour groups made
leaving the crypt with the Blessed Sacrament impossible) followed by
Benediction. I was too busy singing the propers and sequence to take
photos during Mass, but I got some at Benediction...

I shall post some photos as soon as I get back...

A leisurely lunch ensued, and then I wandered back to the hotel ( via
several shops) for a brief siesta. The Blessed Sacrament procession
was the only scheduled activity for the afternoon - it finishes in the
Basilica of St. Pius X, and I got some good photos. Sadly, the
preponderence of ladies of an overly mature age acting as incense
bearers made it feel more like a pagan ceremony than Benediction. I
offered it up...

There's the final procession tonight, and then an early night for me, I think...

Wednesday 2 June 2010

I Love Lourdes...

It is wonderful to be able to visit the place where Our Lady chose to
appear, as Fr. Tim reminded us in his sermon this morning.

The visit to the Baths yesterday involved a very penitential wait (I
didn't have any children or obviously disabled pilgrims to accompany
me) but it was well worth the effort.

This morning started with the official group photo in front of the
Rosary Basilica, and then people made their way to the parish church.
As we have three priests on the pilgrimage, it seemed an excellent
opportunity to celebrate Solemn High Mass.

Unfortunately I am not a proper musician, and the only people really
competent enough to sing the Gregorian chant were all saying or
serving Mass... which left me to sing the propers according to the
Rossini psalm tones. The glorious acoustics in the Crypt prevented it
from sounding too thin, and the congregation joined in for the
ordinary chants of the Mass, so that was good.

In the afternoon, we went to Bartres. This was the village where St.
Bernadette's wet-nurse lived, and where, just before the first
Apparition, St. Bernadette worked as a shepherdess. I took photos of
the house and the parish church, but had to give the sheepfold a miss,
as the walk over the hills to the barn where St. Bernadette was too
steep for me.

Fr. Tim met and chatted to the Sacristan, and I now have the
delightful task of contacting the Parish to arrange a Mass at Bartres
for next years' pilgrimage...

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Second Day...

This morning was slightly overcast, but with the promise of bright
sunshine to come. We found the new Glorious Cross chapel without any
difficulty... and then rather wished we hadn't bothered, as it
resembled a classroom.

Jonathan, our senior MC, had packed most of Blackfen's sacristy, and
the use of two proper candles immediately upped the reverence quotient
(in my humble opinion - but then again, some of you may prefer the
asymmetrical, faux candle effect) !

Fr. Charles said the Mass, and Fr. Tim provided a few catechetical reflections.

Afterwards I went to register our group with the Information bureau,
pay a donation for the group, collect our ticket for the afternoon Way
of the Cross, and meet up with our guide for the tour of Lourdes. This
provided the first little hiccough... there wasn't a spare guide, as
ours had reported sick or something. No possibility of a tour until
Thursday. Alas, Thursday is one of our solemn High Masses in the
Parish church. Then they asked if we minded joining up with another
group. We didn't, so everything was back on course. I delivered the
members of our group to the guide (I have done the tour many times
before, and my ankle was playing up, so I decided the hilly town walk
was not a good idea) and then went for a cup of hot chocolate.

Pausing to drop some stuff in my hotel room, I then wandered back down
to the Grotto for some personal prayer time. I also took a few photos.
The sight of me taking photos I'm the Rosary Basilica brought all
sorts of people over to ask me to take photos of themselves, something
I was very happy to do.

Lunch then beckoned: magret de canard, one of my favourite dishes.

I'm now off to the Baths. Hopefully the lunch of roast duck won't make
me sink without trace...

Monday 31 May 2010

We Have Arrived...

We have finally arrived in Lourdes, after a surprisingly uneventful
journey - albeit a very long one.

I didn't manage to get any posts prepared in advance, so I'm pretty
much restricted to what I can send from my iPhone... And, unless I am
very lucky, I doubt that I will be able to upload any photos or video
clips until I get home.

Still, I shall do my best to keep you up to date!

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