As we head west towards the Pyrenees, the rolling hillsides become more pronounced and wooded. Wide green rivers meander nearby. The farmlands morph from sunflowers and vineyards to endless rows of corn with small herds of cattle huddled up on freshly mowed fields. We make our exit towards Lourdes.
The road narrows and the markings of an alpine village begin to take form. In our wildest dreams none of us expected what soon unfolded before us.
This seemingly sparsely populated outpost quickly turned into a bustling metropolis, with gigantic buses filled with “pilgrims”, deftly snaking their way through the narrow twisting and crowded streets.
Over 200 hotels and twice as many shops all cater to the millions of visitors to the Grotto enclosed within The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes (or the Domain) in search of healing, be it mind, body or soul for themselves or loved ones.
Thousands of people, in upwards to 30,000 occupy the 51 hectare grounds and 22 chapels of the Domain daily. We arrive with plenty of time in which to return our car to Tarbes, take a train back to Lourdes, make our first visit to the actual Grotto and
take part in the nightly procession with what appeared to be over 3,000 other people from all over the world.
No words or even pictures can capture the sense of reverence, sincerity and community that you feel as you follow en mass the hoards of people both “able bodied” and infirmed as we walk (amble, crutch, roll, push or carry) holding candles as the Rosary is prayed aloud in multiple languages along with the singing of Ave Maria.
It is like a Catholic Disneyland. It is an experience that touches all your senses.
People wait patiently to set foot in the Grotto to touch the walls and sample the spring water that dribbles from between cracks in the dense stone. Spigots are nearby for those who wish to drink from or capture in various size bottles, the “healing waters” of the spring.
While there is nothing “special” about the water itself as far as its chemical makeup, it has been known for more than one miracle, as faith has a way of making the impossible, possible. Baths are available, in which to immerse ones body, if only for an instant, in the healing spring water of the Grotto as well. Souvenirs and trinkets de Catholic are in great supply for purchase at the shops that encircle the area of the Domain grounds.
Several Gypsie children at the behest of their parents tug at visitor’s coat tales, stopping just short of the gates to the Domain grounds. Whilst on the grounds, words are softly spoken. Not an angry tone is heard or felt. We are One at this place and time. God is good…All the time. May the healing of our intended commence.
God’s Blessing on your journey!
It’s my plan to walk the Camino some day, also. I’m a Catholic and believe in miracles. They happen all the time. Including, more rarely, the appearance of Mary. Lourdes I have visited and love the beauty of the area , especially the mountains.
On the way if you meet the Dutch guy who’s looking for the next party, recommend him to San O. Haha.
Buen Camino, Paul and Dee
Will do Lee. I hear the Camino calling you.