(Plainfield, MA USA)
1973 or so, I was living in Spain for a year. My sister arrived with EurRail passes and we decided to travel around and each picked a few places to see. I don't know why I picked Lourdes, I wasn't feeling especially connected to my childhood Catholicism and wasn't feeling particularly bound to seeing holy sites.
But off we went. My first remembrance was the very crowded train that got increasingly more so as we approached Lourdes. The car was filled with languages from all over the world and it was clear that these weren't tourists but rather, travel weary, exhausted pilgrims, many who were carrying a child who appeared to be extremely sick or injured. It seemed that for many, this was their last hope for a miracle. In fact, I was able to speak with those who spoke English or Spanish and they confirmed that yes, they had given everything in order to make this trip possible. For me, this was an emotionally laden experience. It made me want to assist them in finding that miracle. It seemed that there were few opportunities left.
The next thing that I remember was that everyone was waiting for the evening ceremony that would take place in the dark. I was shocked at the multitude of people who had gathered at this site. I remember that we were all walking on a winding path that led to the fountain where Mary had appeared. I don't even remember what the story is, but I know it involved The Blessed Virgin Mary. I believe that we were all singing and praying together and holding candles that lit up the mountainside.
This WAS a place where miracles could happen, at least it felt that way to me. I really only remember these moments that are by now clouded by the milky eyes of age. And while I don't remember the actual facts of that night, I still remember the strong feelings of the joys and sorrows of humankind, and the miracle of hope that allows us to get up in the morning with warmth in our hearts, regardless of what has been dealt to us that day.
I hope to go back again one day.
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