Lourdes is an intensely spiritual place: a place where many have found peace, reconciliation and healing. This was no less true for us in group 154. Wheel chairs were not abandoned or crutches throw away yet healing in a far less dramatic, and yet I would argue more important, way did take place within our group.

The peace of Lourdes and its prayerfulness are generated by the very touch of God via the visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bernadette. An encounter with God is always about an invitation to love and life. Others may not always understand this but those who are touched by God seem to have a sense of peace that this world, try as it might, cannot snatch away. This life encounter is very palpable at Lourdes and it seems to bubble over into a sense of great joy, as well as tears sometimes. I was told the other day that Bishop Kieran had said of young people that they find that it’s ok to be catholic in Lourdes – and thus discover a great freedom. The bishop’s insight seems to me to be a profound truth about the experience of many who visit Lourdes. The joy and tears are in that discovery that it is ok to be ourselves and that God accepts us, warts and all. It’s in being our true selves that we are most open to the gifts of God,in Jesus, the well spring to eternal life. We find in being able to be ourselves before God that we are ready to hear the words of Jesus:
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11 (NIV)

Something of what Jesus is saying to the woman, and says to us, is leave the way of imprisonment and death, be free and go live! In Jesus, we begin to discover that we are made for love and are destined for life and in him we find the freedom to go live it.

At Lourdes that welling up and overflowing into life found its expression in, not only the exuberant prayer and praise of the HCPT week, but also activities that may seem less spiritual but no less a part of that joyous divine life. What we experienced was that the Spirit, the life of God, was right there with us in the water pistol fights, the singing of nonsense songs in the cafes, the sharing of hot chocolates and in particular the ongoing shared laughter. Dedicated to God in this holy place, these activities became more than just shooting water at each other, they were sanctified moments filled with life. This allowed each to be more fully their true selves and resulted in smiles, spontaneous hugs, remembered action songs, acts of great kindness, and songs, prayers and readings shared with the group. In this discovery of fuller life is a healing gift of God experienced by us at Lourdes.