Thursday, June 16, 2022

My Trip to Lourdes

In case anyone is interested in a more detailed description of my trip to Lourdes, I am providing this summary.  Feel free, as well, to pass this on to anyone who is interested.  I write this because I will not have the chance to speak with each of you in depth.


Let me begin by saying the best way that I can think of to summarize my trip is that I know that God’s hands were all over this trip.  Because I did not have much time to prepare for it, I entrusted my entire trip to God’s Providence.  And so, about 1 week before I left, a very generous donor upgraded my tickets to first class.  So on Monday, June 6th, I flew out of Indianapolis and landed in Newark, NJ with about a 5 hour layover.  I walked to my gate for my departure to Paris, and right near my gate to Paris was a glass door saying “United Polaris Lounge”.  I went in to the lounge to see what it was all about, and they asked me to scan my ticket, and so I did.  Long story short, I did not even know such a place existed in an airport.  This lounge had showers, a free food buffet, a free bar, office spaces, its own special wifi, lots of comfortable spaces to sit down…in short, these lounges ended up being an even better blessing than the first class seating on the plane!


On Tuesday morning, June 7th, I landed in Paris and followed the signs to the train station.  I went to the train station and purchased a trip to Lourdes which was about 8 hours.  I had reached out to the shrine of our Lady of Lourdes about two weeks prior to my arrival, and they had sent me the name and place for me to stay for 5 nights, but because I had been locked out of my protonmail account, I could not access my reservation.  Also, as my train was pulling into Lourdes, I could see the shrine, and the town was a little bit bigger than I had imagined but I figured I could walk there pretty quickly.  When I got off the train, however, I walked around the town of Lourdes for about 2 hours and was still not able to find the shrine.  I started to panic a little bit, getting that same feeling I had when I first landed in Rome almost 20 years prior when I had a taxi driver take me to the North American College, and, when I arrived the gates were locked and, after waiting several hours, ended up climbing the gate and pulling my bags up and then lowering them down the other side.  I had that same fear of spending the night outside starting to creep in.  But I finally circled back to the train station and found a taxi and asked him to take me to Lourdes and he did.  A special shout out to my sister Laura who had been to Lourdes several times and was able to guide me, through some text messages, at key moments that night!


When I arrived in Lourdes, though, I still did not know where I was staying.  I walked around and found some pilgrims who spoke English and they stuck with me until I got a room at a pretty simple place connected to the shrine itself which was only 18 euros a night and pretty close to the shrine.  I finally got to my room at about 11 pm, feeling very blessed to have a place to stay!


On Wednesday, June 8th, I went back to the shrine, and went to the crypt Church and did a holy hour.  So Lourdes is 3 churches stacked on top of each other.  There is the lowest level Church where there are some stunning mosaics of the 15 decades of the rosary.  Then the next level is the crypt Church and then the Church at the very top is the Church of the Immaculate Conception.  Anyways, in the crypt Church they had altars off to the side where priests could have private Masses, and so I had my first of 4 private Masses there at a side altar off to the side.  The sacristans in the crypt Church did not speak English but were so kind and helpful.  I then walked around the grounds the rest of the day and just sort of oriented myself.


On Thursday, June 9th, it was my day to go into the baths.  People have rightly asked what it was like, but I had to confess that I didn’t really have time to properly prepare for two reasons.  The first reason was when I walked down to the place where pilgrims go into the baths around 4 pm, there was a sign that said the baths close at 4:45, and I had told everyone I would be going in at 5.  The other thing that threw me off was I realized that masks were required.  So I had to walk back to the place where I was staying about 10 minutes away and grab my mask and then head back to the baths.  Thankfully, I was able to get in line before they closed up.  When I got back to the baths, because of Covid precautions, they were pouring water into your hands three times, the first time, I was able to figure out from the 2 ladies helping me who did not speak English that I was supposed to wash my hands with the water.  The second pour from the pitcher I was supposed to drink, and the third pour from the pitcher I was supposed to rub it on my face and head.  I did all of that, and trust that if God wants to work a miracle, then He certainly can with that.  All this just to say, though, that because all of the surprises of that hour, I did not really have time to prepare properly, and so when people ask me if I felt anything miraculous, I have said “I am not sure if I did or not.” 


Thursday night, June 9th, I was able to participate in the nightly candle light procession at the shrine that starts every evening at 9 pm and lasts about 1 hour.  Everyone purchases a candle that has a paper cup with it with some prayers, and you end up processing around with your candle and paper cup with all the other pilgrims who want to participate in it.  It is probably easier to just say that some clips from Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism trailer are from the night time procession at Lourdes if you would like to watch that.


Friday, June 10th, after Mass and prayers and so forth, I decided to walk back to the Lourdes train station, just to make sure I knew the way.  When I arrived at the train station, though, I found out that all the trains departing for Paris on Sunday, June 12th were already full.  I panicked because I had planned to leave Lourdes on Sunday, June 12th, but a very kind employee at the train station was able to help me find a train that left for Paris on Saturday, June 11th.  I was able to email the hotel in Paris and book an extra night, so that again was God’s Providence at work!


Saturday, June 11th, I woke up, had Mass in the crypt one last time, and then walked to the train station at Lourdes and departed for Paris.


Sunday, June 12th was a day of providential adventure as well.  Canon Law says a pastor is required to have one Sunday (or Saturday anticipation Mass) for all the people under his pastoral care.  My hotel was right near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which is about a 30 minute metro ride from downtown Paris.  I looked up the night before “English Masses in Paris” and there was a parish that had 4 Sunday Masses all in English, and the parish was located very near the “Arch de Triumph”.  I took an hour metro ride down to the Arch, but when I arrived, I remembered I did not know the exact name nor the exact address of the parish Church.  So I headed the hour metro trip back to the hotel to find the name and exact address of the parish.  I then took the hour metro back to the Arch, found the parish, but now the 12:30 Mass was ending.  I asked the parish priest if I could have a private Mass in English, and he said that unfortunately they were having a catechetical event for the young people of the parish, and were shutting the doors to the public until the 6:30 pm Mass.  I then took the metro up to the Basilica of Sacre Ceur, (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) which I had read an awesome book in the seminary on, and wanted to see it and also see if I could have a private Mass there.  When I got off at the metro stop for the basilica, though, I was not prepared for the size of the crowd.  It was unlike anything else I have experienced other than maybe a World Youth Day.  I made my way up this massive hill of steps literally with people EVERYWHERE and eventually made it to the top.  At the top was the entrance to the Basilica, but then the wait to get in was about 50 minutes in the sun, and so I bailed and went back to the hotel.  But I resolved to have Mass for my people, and made a 5th and 6th trip back to the Arch and was standing in the sacristy fully vested at 6:05 for a 6:30 Mass.  The Mass ended up being awesome because I got to meet some Americans who came up and said hello after the Mass, and I got back to the hotel and started to pack for the flight back to the US the next morning.


Monday, June 13th was my flight home. 


In summary, I feel very blessed to have been able to go on the trip, and I know, whether I am healed or not, it was a blessing to get to travel to Paris and Lourdes.  Thanks for any prayers you offered up for me during my trip!

1 comment:

  1. God bless you Fr. John! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story to Lourdes and Paris! I’m still praying for you everyday! Thank you for offering prayers for my soul and for the souls of those that suffer! Thank you for carrying the cross you are caring for victims of abuse. I’m praying the Lord will heal you deeply n heart mind body and soul!
    God bless you! Saying a Rosary fir you now and your beautiful trip! Glad you are back home safely!
    Praise God!