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In what way is Lourdes a “School of life”?

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famille de pèlerins devant l'expo photo

Lourdes is a veritable “school of life”. It attracts multitudes from throughout the world. What is the key to its success? We try to explain.

Michel Beydon knows that Lourdes is a school of life, and with good reason! “Before dying I wanted to come to Lourdes one last time”, he explains. “At the baths I asked the Virgin Mary simply that I may spend a little more time with my family and friends. I then felt an indescribable sensation of wellbeing, as if something had entered my whole being. The result? - I needed no assistance in leaving the baths! I returned home cured, fuller of life than ever”. Lourdes is a school of life because it is a place of “resurrection”.

Father Luciano Mainini, secretary general of the NFC - the Coordination Committee of National Italian Pilgrimages - says that the Lourdes school of life has a spiritual dimension: "In Lourdes, many people have found or rediscovered their faith. This is conversion in reality." A pilgrim told me: "To escape a cult I sought refuge in Lourdes for five days. There, I was overwhelmed by strong emotions that I did not expect at all: the Grotto, the processions, the beautiful songs, all these sick people. We often speak of a miracle of physical healing, I think there is a miracle just as beautiful: that of a heart transformed by a personal encounter with God. That's what I've experienced here." Lourdes is a school of life, because it is a place of conversion.

Missionary of the Sacred Heart, Father Philippe Seveau perceives Lourdes as "a place of the Church suitable for discernment." Father Hervé Passard, diocesan priest from Coutances (France), illustrates his point: "I participated in the International Military pilgrimage. At the end of the Way of the Cross, a paratroop officer was baptized with his little child. At that moment it was as if this Baptism rebounded in me. Emotions arose in me and it sparked an inner joy, hitherto unknown. On my return I was praying in my village church one day, and I made the connection between the gift received in Lourdes and the Donor who is present in every church. The idea of becoming a priest sprang out of thanksgiving for the gift received, out of gratitude, and a desire to know who this Donor is." Lourdes is school of life, because it is a place of vocation. 

To allow people to discover the love of god: the great mission of Lourdes

In his pastoral orientations for the Sanctuary of Lourdes, Mgr Nicolas Brouwet, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, indicates the direction in which the Sanctuary should organize its mission; Extract.

“In this poor Grotto of Massabielle a corner of heaven touched the earth so that we may experience the closeness, tenderness, and joy of God, of which Mary is the face and the servant. Our mission is to ensure that all those who come to the Sanctuary are touched, before the Grotto, by the unconditional love of Jesus. Our preaching, our projects, our initiatives, and our work, should lead to that.”

"If the Grotto could speak it would talk of humanity, notes Father Horacio Brito, Rector of the Sanctuary. When you see all these pilgrims touching the rock, who can say what is in their hearts? When you see a mother rubbing her sick child against the rock, it breaks your heart. Yes the Grotto speaks to us of this humanity of which it is molded." Lourdes is a school of life, because it is a place of humanity. 

Another essential aspect of the Lourdes school of life is the dimension of fraternal service and shared love. This is the most visible dimension; the tip of the iceberg. "Maybe in Lourdes I found my calling: to freely serve and to offer my love," says a young Hospitality member who lived for several days in contact with a sick pilgrim. A disabled person continues: "My daily routine is not always easy. There are a thousand acts of solidarity in Lourdes that make life more enjoyable. Often it is a smile or a word that comes at the right time." Lourdes is a school of life because it is a place of fraternity.

Deputy Director of the National Service for the evangelization of young people and for vocations (France), Father Didier Noblot, believes that Lourdes refocuses on the essential: “Real beauty is no longer a glossy magazine cover. It is elsewhere: it is evident in the service rendered, in caring looks, in shared smiles, in outstretched hands. 'Real life' is not what the world presents to us. Lourdes allows us to realize this.” Lourdes is a school of life because it is a place of an Other Life.

We leave the last word to Father Robert McCabe who regularly accompanies pilgrims to Lourdes from Ireland: “In meeting sick or disabled people in Lourdes, our pilgrims are deeply touched by their testimonies of faith and hope. They learn to listen with the heart. No one can illustrate this with pictures or words, any such effort of publicity would be in vain. There is only one way to describe the reality of Lourdes: experience Lourdes.”

A good start of term to all at the School of Lourdes!

A photo exhibition was installed on the boulevard Rémi Sempé, between the Saint Michael and Saint Joseph entrances of the Sanctuary. Its theme: Lourdes, a school of life. It is accessible to persons with disabilities: A photographic itinerary to discover the multiple facets of the daily life of Lourdes.