Like many people, I have a ‘bucket list’ of things I want to do, places to visit, friends and relatives far away I would love to meet again. Over time the list has naturally lengthened. Occasionally I bow to old age and delete with some sadness items such as bungee jumps and parachute drops!
As my rambling continues the few readers who are still with me may be wondering what tops my list. The answer is, and always has been, Lourdes.
My first pilgrimage was over 60 years ago as a schoolboy and my parents must have scrimped and saved up to send me. I still have vivid memories of the Grotto, the holy silence of the Domain, and the chill waters of the baths! Even during those post war years of austerity the little town was crowded with pilgrims.
I recall bringing home a small statue of Our Lady from one of those tacky gift shops. My parents seemed very pleased and placed it on their bedroom mantelpiece. Later that evening there were hoots of laughter when they brought the family in to see how the statue glowed in the dark!
Some of my friends are quietly sceptical about Lourdes and have stated how much they detest the commercial side of the town, using this as a lame excuse for avoiding a pilgrimage. I say to such critics, they cannot make an informed decision about Lourdes if they have not experienced for themselves the truly amazing sanctity around the Grotto, and the genuine Christian attitude of the pilgrims, young and old, towards one another.
The recent Diocesan Pilgrimage was an amazing journey of faith and I wish to thank all those helpers, musicians, nurses, doctors, priests and students who willingly gave their time and expertise. Without them there would be no annual pilgrimage at all and Hallam Diocese would be the poorer for it.
I met many old friends in Lourdes and made some new ones. A group of us, keen football fans, voted unanimously to join the torchlight procession rather than watch England’s Euro game with Iceland. Such a good decision!
Ever hopeful, I am saving some of my pension for next year’s journey of faith.
Back to that bucket list! To be honest, a bungee jump was never on it!