Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lourdes - Day 6

Early Wednesday morning the medical students were up early again to assist the pilgrims in getting ready for the day. When all the pilgrims had eaten and were seated comfortably in wheelchairs, we headed off two by two to the underground basilica for the international Mass. The basilica was built in the shape of Noah’s ark and it was massive. It was so weird to stand there and actually get a visual of just how big Noah’s ark was. The Mass itself reminded me of the Vigil Mass for the March for Life because at this Mass there were so many priests and people present.
Following Mass we all exited and had a group picture taken in front of the rosary basilica. The pilgrims were able to visit the grotto again for a little bit, but then they had to go back for lunch. After lunch the pilgrims prepared for their visit to the Piscines. Fran gave a talk about what they could expect and none of them hesitated at all when she asked who would like to go and who would prefer to stay.
The pilgrims visit to the Piscines was one of the most beautiful things I experienced all week. Watching the eagerness on their faces even as some of them were lifted onto broncardiae was so inspiring. It was also very emotional because one of the pilgrims had a tender shoulder and while she was being lifted on to the broncardiae, her shoulder was bumped and she started crying. Her assigned student volunteer tried to comfort her, but the doctor took over because the student was crying so hard. Even though the pilgrim was in so much pain, she was still very eager to go into the baths.
I stayed with Liz and pushed her wheelchair into the room where people changed and then the ladies working the Piscines took over while I undressed. Some of our students were working in the Piscines that afternoon and Ginny happened to be in the room we were in. The head lady asked if I spoke English and then directed me to a chair where Ginny would hold up the blue sheet for me. It was really special to have a friend there helping you. Liz had her turn in the bath and she came out smiling. She was so happy! The ladies switched jobs after Liz went in so Ginny was watching in the actual room where the water was when I had my bath. The water didn’t seem as cold this time, but it was still very chilly. The ladies had me sit down on my own rather than lowering me down and pulling me up. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to visit the baths twice. I met Liz outside and we prayed the rosary together with Desiree and another pilgrim while Liz waited for her nephew Gabriel. When he came out, we all went and visited the grotto and then Liz had me take her to the English confession building. I waited outside for her and when Liz and Gabe were ready, Mike, nurse Irene and I took them up to the Crypt where there was adoration and a relic of St. Bernadette. The crypt was in between the rosary basilica and the Immaculate conception basilica but instead of taking the huge ramp up, we took a smaller side path.
We stayed at adoration for about twenty minutes when Gabe started getting sleepy. When we got to the door, we noticed it was sprinkling out and we didn’t have any umbrellas or rain jackets. Liz didn’t mind the rain because she “wanted as much water from Lourdes as she could get” and I gave my rain jacket to Gabe. We brought them back for dinner and the rain pretty much held off while we were walking outside.

After dinner the pilgrims prepared to go to the rosary procession. We lined up two by two again and we were at the head of the procession right behind the Mary statue. Eight of our male student volunteers were privileged to be able to take turns carrying the statue while four of our female student volunteers carried candles near the statue. Apparently it has been five years since Franciscan Students have carried the statue. All the pilgrims had candles and you could hear how strongly they were praying the rosary. The pilgrims in wheelchairs were lined up in front of the basilica while the rest of the procession would around behind us. At the end of the rosary procession Liz and I went to the grotto and spent some time there. The grotto is absolutely beautiful after dark. We stopped at the taps before we went back to the Accueil so Liz could wash and drink the Lourdes water again. 

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