Monday, May 4, 2015

Day 4: The Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, France

Friday, May 1st, Day 4: The Grotto of Massabielle

Our second full day in Lourdes, and I awoke feeling good...finally! I could use a cup of coffee! Hank told me to hang on and just get to the Baths and I would feel better...and he was right!
Hank and I got dressed and headed to the banquet room for breakfast. Today we would be with a different team with us and would be visiting the Grotto as well as the "Anointing of the Sick" Mass. After breakfast, we had team activities. Our team was to have a historical talk, which Hank was not interested in.. Instead, we met up with our voiture (French for "wagon" or "cart") team and discussed what we would do. Since Hank and I had not been able to get online and I was desperate to post on the blog and Hank's Facebook group, we headed up to "Cafe New Orleans" of the few cafes that advertised free WiFi. Today's team was another family and we were thrilled! Dad and Mom: Mark and Patty, and their son Rod and wife, Laura. All of them personable and engaging and interesting...and I could see Hank take to them immediately. (as did I!)

It was raining as we headed out the door, leaving the voiture behind, since it was a short walk. We settled down into a comfortable table and started to get to know one another as I desperately looked for a signal. Part of our visit to the Grotto would entail leaving our petitions there. We all took time to write our prayers down...why are we here? Who are what are we praying for?  Hank had a list and so did I. We pretty much included everyone we know! Of course we had special intentions...for Hank's healing, and for other people in our lives who are ill and in need of healing or cures. I had a stack of papers... We finished our coffee (the first of many French Cappuccino's for me), I posted a quick update to the blog and Facebook and headed back to the hotel garage to start our journey to the Grotto.

The Read family escorts Hank to the Grotto.
 The walk was wet and it was the first time that we had to pull the cover up on the voiture. This brings a different feeling to the walk for Hank. No longer is he able to take in the scene from all sides or to have conversations with those pushing the he is isolated and his only view is straight ahead. I knew he didn't like it, and tried to stay within his line of sight, so we could talk. Our puller, Rod, was great. He would turn around and talk to Hank quite frequently, to keep him engaged. I could see everything though...and the procession was quite beautiful. somehow, we were in the front of the group, following directly behind the American flag and the Order of Malta flag.

As we walked through the bustle of the domain and headed in towards the Grotto, the feeling in the air changed. The talking ceased and the feeling of reverence was obvious. As we edged closer to the Grotto where Our Lady appeared, we could reach out and touch the rock of the cave walls. They were wet and I noticed people placing their hands in little streams of water as they ran down the rock. I wasn't sure if this was what we are supposed to do, since it appeared to me to be just the rainwater running down the cliff.

Hank waiting to pass through the Grotto for the first time.
All of a sudden it was our turn and as we turned the corner we could see the spring that Bernadette dug at Our Lady's request. It was covered with a plexi-glass covering which seemed to be a little fogged up, not giving us the best look, but we could definitely see the water moving quickly and running down over the rocks. Here, is where we deposited our prayer intentions...or so we thought. Turns out the woman who grabbed our petitions from our hands and placed them in the intention box actually stuffed them in the donation box...which we realized when we saw the next box clearly marked with the word "Intention" (turns out the word is the same in English and French) ARGH!! I guess she was trying to help...but we were disappointed and would subsequently redo our intentions and return to the Grotto with our revised list. (adding more names and being more specific)  The line was long and since we were in front, the Hospitalite' rushed us through, not giving us as much time as we would have liked...As we passed through, I looked up to see the statue of Our Lady, placed in the exact spot that she appeared when she told St. Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception" all those years ago. I was awestruck and desired to just stay stand and be with Our Lady, to pray and talk with her...but it was not to be at that time...

St. Pio
With lots of time before lunch, our team asked if we would like to go elsewhere. Hank said yes. They took us to the Museum of St. Bernadette, where we saw pictures of her family, her house, articles of her clothing as well as the construction of the basilica. Next door to the museum is the Basilica of St. Pius X, the largest church in Lourdes, constructed almost entirely underground. We would be attending mass there on Sunday with the 25,000 other Order of Malta groups from around the world, prompting everyone to call it "The Superbowl Mass". We left the museum and entered the underground basilica. There was an obvious drop in temperature as we walked in. The church is built with pillars and rafters that look like an inverted boat. Tapestries hang along the concourse, depicting the lives of the saints, and the tabernacle is the largest I have ever seen. Mark was very well versed on the stories of the different saints and shared the information with us. We stopped at the banner depicting St. Pio (Padre Pio, before he was beatified), a very humble Italian priest who bore the Stigmata of Christ, could bi-locate and who resided in Italy until his death in 1968. I read about Padre Pio when I was about Hank's age and loved him ever since. As we talked about the amazing life of St. Pio, Hank whispered to me, "How come I don't know about him?" I explained that I had many books that he could read and he said, "good, I want to!" And as Mark went on to talk about other saints and their lives, I watched Hank listen intently, enamored with what he was hearing and realized another gift had been bestowed on us as a new world opened up before Hank.

The church was vast, with an altar right in the middle. The altar could be seen from all angles and a very modern crucifix stood there as well. Not all the lights were on, and so I could only imagine what it would look like fully illuminated. Mark pointed out an area behind the altar where all the clergy would sit. There were rows and rows of seats, and I couldn't picture them all filled but Mark assured me, they would be.

After spending more time walking around and sight-seeing, we headed back to the hotel for lunch, where we were joined by many others from the Order of Malta. Among them, Monsignor Kidder...a good and holy priest, who I would later have the honor of getting to know better. Also seated with us was another Malade, Jonathan as well as his mom. Jonathan is just 20 and the most positive young man I have ever met. I felt very fortunate to be in such great company and the great conversations and laughter was just what we needed. A quick visit from the Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento was a real treat. He said hello to Hank and asked how he was doing. Bishop Soto had just flown in the night before. As the Chaplain of the Red Team, he had some catching up to do and was greeting each table.  We have met Bishop Soto before...through our wonderful priest, Fr. Terry Fulton, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Elk Grove. (Fr. Terry passed away in Nov. 2013 and we miss him deeply). But I know that these men meet a great many people...and would not remember us...but was thrilled to see him!

After lunch we once again loaded up into the voitures and headed to the domain. We would be lining up for the group and team photos and then heading to St. Bernadette's for the "Anointing of the Sick" mass. It was a well-choreographed dance of placing the voitures right in front of the steps of the Rosary Basilica, a beautiful backdrop for our photo. I took position behind Hank, as did the other companions...taking their spots behind their Malades. Bishop Soto joined the rest of the Red Team and took a spot right next to me. He checked in with Hank and was met with a huge grin...Hank was slowly getting used to people asking him how he was doing and was so pleased to see who it was! Little did I know just how many times we would interact with Bishop Soto and how close we would all become in a short time.

The photo was quick, as was our team photos. After our photo, we had a few minutes while we were waiting for the other teams. All of the Malades had been given flowers in honor of May Day and Hank was going to give his to Our Lady. In the middle of the domain stands a huge statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. May is Mary's month and on the fence surrounding the statue, people had already started placing flowers...As Hank stood before the statue, I had tears in my eyes. We had crowned Mary many times over the years on May 1st...but never did I imagine that Hank would be placing flowers before Our Lady of Lourdes! What a special moment and something I won't soon forget!

With pictures complete, we were quickly underway to St. Bernadette's Church, the same church that we had the washing of the feet. Upon entering, Malades and companions were led to the pews...leaving every other one empty. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Soto, were he was accompanied by at least 40 members of the clergy...from priests to the Archbishop. It was a beautiful sight and I briefly wondered how would I ever enjoy Mass again, with just one priest celebrating the Mass? (I was getting spoiled!)

The Anointing of the Sick got underway as the clergy were sent off into the church, each taking a section. I looked down the aisle and watched as the priest blessed Sandy, a Malade that we had gotten to know quite well. Once again I had tears in my eyes, and with blurry vision, I snapped a photo for her...knowing she was just as amazed at being here, as I was! The priest made his way to Hank, where he anointed Hank's head with oil as well as the palms of his hands. Hank has been blessed in this way before every surgery...but something about being here, in Lourdes, made it so different. I started to see companions and Knights and Dames start to line up for a blessing, so I quickly joined a line and was blessed as well. ("OK," I thought to myself..."With both of us blessed...there is going to be some serious healing happening here!")

We had a nice dinner and then Hank took off for Gelato with the other teenagers and some parents. They came back and took up some seats at the bar...which I will call "lounge" so it doesn't sound as bad... I sat in the "lounge" as well and talked and visited with others. (all while keeping my distance from Hank, so not to embarrass him, but close enough that he knew I was there) Hank came to me the and asked to go to the Grotto with some of the other kids. As long as John Gabriel (the 17 year old son of the Knight who pushed Hank's cart the day before.) was going, I said OK. Sometime later, Hank was back, enjoying pizza with the rest of the group. He turned in around 10 pm and I followed up about an hour later. I got in the room and I knew...Hank is sick! He had obviously vomited and was now curled up and asleep on his bed. "Oh no!!", he had caught my bug. (I am pretty sure that I am "Patient Zero"). This can't be good...I am a very sympathetic vomit...I vomit. UGH! Alone with my sick child in cell service, no Internet. Well maybe that was time and he is good, I thought as I cleaned up the bathroom.
I couldn't have been more wrong...and the next 24 hours had me scared...

Hank hanging out with the other teens.

Hank seeing the Spring for the first time
Rod taking Hank through the Grotto

The Grotto of Massabielle

Waiting for the big group photo
Getting ready for group photos

The Red Team!

Visiting with Most Reverend Bishop Jaime Soto

Hank and his team for the day: L to R: Patty, Rod, Hank, Laura, Mark

The procession to the Rosary Basilica.

No comments:

Post a Comment