I find myself still thinking over our time in Lourdes. It is characteristic of experiences that have profoundly drawn us to God that we need time to ‘unpack’ what has gone on.

Almost two weeks since we returned, looking at the whole pilgrimage, the aspect that has stayed with me is that of joy. We left for Lourdes on Easter Sunday, having celebrated the Resurrection. This joy stayed with us through out the week. So now is the time to ‘count my blessings’ from the week. Here are my Lourdes reasons to be joyful:

1. The pilgrimage was fun. The town was alive to singing and chanting from HCPT groups all week. Singing in the street, in mass, in cafes, on the bus, on the dotto train, on party night was a big feature. Whether it was Fred the Moose, Baby Shark, Our God reigns (and snows!) or Rise and Shine, all were sung with gusto. We played games, had faces painted, draw pictures, sculpted with pipe cleaners, turned our leader into a mummy with loo roll and had a water fight. Laughter was as common as the singing. In everything we did (even in the rain), the fun we had spoke of Christ’s joy as the Resurrection.

2. We shared meals together. Jesus did so many important things at mealtimes, including the offering of himself at the Last Supper. From the very first days of the Church food was shared as an important part of building community and drawing people together.

3. The place is beautiful. Creation has been described as a second scripture. Its beauty points to its Creator. In Lourdes, the loveliness of the place contributed to the joy I felt. The mountains, the deep green of the hillside, the lizards which appeared every time the sun came out, the sound of the river and the many swallows which congregated there, each reminded me of God’s love. My joy bubbled with the clear water, fresh from the mountain.A beautiful backdrop for Mass.

4. We discovered joy in the meeting of new people. Particularly wonderful was meeting the young people on the pilgrimage. It was amazing to see how the teenagers in the group (including one we knew well) and those who joined us at different times from St Richard’s, Bexhill and the Salesian College in Falmer took everything in their stride. Aged up to 18, they showed kindness, patience and gentleness. They were mature beyond their years and they were a, literally a joy to be with. Most importantly were the young people who had come with 154, who had disabilities. Whatever Lourdes’ reputation for medical cures, we saw little miracles everyday as each person became more confident in the group and started to flourish. They will never need to be verified by a panel of doctors but they changed those of us who witnessed it. The week was filled with beautiful moments: someone having the confidence to read at mass, someone singing along to a song they had learnt, laughs and wonderful smiles.

In all of these things could be felt Christ’s joy. Everyone of the people we got to know, and all of the things we did together was a gift from God in many ways, a gift that helped us to enter into the joy of his love.