Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day 5 Part Two: Recovery and Blessings

 Day 5 Part Two: Hank's Miraculous Recovery



Hank has been sick and now it's time to nurse him back to health. After leaving the domain because of chest pains, and now battling dehydration, we were back in the room resting. Hank was drinking water and Sprite as we quietly reflected on our pilgrimage so far. Sitting on my bed, with Hank laying in his...I asked Hank, "What do you think of this trip?" He laid back and thought..."I miss home a little bit," he revealed, "But I am not ready to leave Lourdes." I told him I felt the same way. It wasn't until we got home and I had time to really absorb everything about the trip, that I realized those words held more meaning than I could have imagined at the time...

Convent of the Poor Clare's
With Hank wanting to sleep, I pulled curtains and darkened the room. While he slept, I pulled out my tablet to try to get online. With no luck, I journaled more of our trip and then slept too. Hours later, we both awoke...Hank was looking better and drank more water. Wanting to sit up and read, I asked if he would be OK if I ran over to the cafe to get online. With his blessing, I quickly set out to find WiFi access. I should mention that I did get out earlier in the day, after lunch with Christine and Dr. Jim, who took me shopping for souvenirs and Order of Malta swag! We went up to the Convent of the Poor Clare's and I was able to purchase rosaries and medals to bring home. Dr. Jim reminds me of my own Uncle Jim, the same wit and dry sense of humor...and I am pretty sure they both feel the same about shopping! But even so, he patiently put up with my need to look in almost every store!

At dinner time, I ran down to the dining room and brought soup back for Hank, not really liking it, he settled for bread, and pastries. While he ate and played on his phone, I went back to the dining room for a quick meal. Dr. Jim and Christine were downstairs and asked if we would like to go somewhere. I told them that Hank and I had talked about going to the grotto since we missed it earlier in the day, but I wasn't sure if Hank was up to it.

When I returned to the room, Hank was awake and looking great! I asked if he wanted to get out of the room and go to the grotto. He said yes, and got dressed. Joined by Dr. Jim and Christine downstairs, we started our walk. It was just getting to twilight and crowds were already filling up the Domain for the nightly rosary procession.  Instead of walking across the concourse, we took the ramp up to the upper level of the Rosary Basilica. (We would be taking part in the procession the following night)

Looking over their shoulders at the start of the procession below.
There were people lining the edges, looking down at the crowd below, and as we made our way up, the voices of the pilgrims reciting the Rosary en mass, gave me goosebumps. Standing at the top of the square, we squeezed between the others, to get a better look. Below us were hundreds of people holding candles, and walking the length of Rosary Square and back. Following behind a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, carried on the shoulders of 6 strong men. The Rosary was being said in Italian, with every few "Hail Mary's" being said in another language. At the end of each decade (one Our Father, 10 Hail Mary's and a Glory Be), the choir would lead the crowd in song. I rejoiced as I heard the strains of "Immaculate Mary" sung by so many and joining in with them, my breath caught as they raised their candles high in the air each time they sang, "Ave! Ave! Ave Maria!". I found myself in tears at the beauty of faith before me. I looked at Christine, who also had tears in her eyes. "I am in tears every time I see it," she later told me.

I did not want to tear myself away, but we wanted to get to the Grotto before the crowd below us dispersed and joined us there. Walking down the ramp, I joined in the Rosary with those below, and
realized all those around me, where doing the same. A few minutes later, we took our place in line, to walk through the Grotto. The feeling here was different. Even though we could still hear the voices and the music, it all seemed so distant. As if a heavy cloak were draped around us, enveloping us in a warm embrace. The line moved quickly and quietly, and as we edged closer, I once again was overcome with great love and emotion. This had a much different feel this time. It was more personal...(just writing about it now, I am once again in tears) The spring that Bernadette dug, which feeds the baths, was clear through the plexi-glass; rushing over the rocks, as it has done since 1858. We continued our slow walk through, each in our own silent prayer. As we came out and walked under the spot where Our Lady appeared (and a statue of her stands today), I paused and turned to her. Radiant in the light, and so clearly visible against the dark of the grotto, I saw her as St. Bernadette saw her all those years ago. "A lady dressed in white with a blue sash and a rosary. A yellow rose was on both of her feet."


Lighting Candles
We left this part of the grotto and continued towards the baths, where numerous candles are set up. All sizes are there...some which can burn for a month. Jim and Christine generously purchased candles for Hank and I to light. We each took our candle and searched for a place to put it. There are numerous "boxes" which hold a multitude of candles...just finding empty spots was the trick. We found somewhere to place them and lit our candles. I placed mine in and stepped back to say a prayer. Hank went next, lighting his candle and doing the same. I caught his face in the candlelight...reflective and prayerful, and something else. "Something is different", I thought to myself. Something that I didn't know but felt...

We walked back by the Grotto, pausing to stand back and take it all in. The lights shining on the statue, the illuminated spring, the long line of pilgrims waiting to walk through, the people filling up all the benches facing the Grotto. The crowds of people, like us...just soaking it in. And the many people...kneeling on the concrete...in groups of two...or just individuals, with their heads in their hands, prostrating themselves before the Virgin Mary. So much love here...so much devotion...so much emotion...so much peace. And all of it...in silence...
The draw of the Grotto was strong for both Hank and I ...and we would continue to go back again and again, during our trip.

We slowly walked back through the domain, where the crowds were now sparse, and made our way through the streets of Lourdes and back to our hotel. "Thank you Hank," I said as we walked, "I know you did this for me." He smiled slightly, "Yeah...I know you really wanted to go to the Grotto, Mom" he said. Here was this boy...so sick just hours before...and making this sacrifice for me... We said goodnight to Jim and Christine, thanking them for taking us out. Hank and I made our way up to our room...and I thanked Hank again for going. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and draped his arm around my shoulders..."I wanted to go too..."

*up next: Mass in the underground basilica, the teen retreat, candlelight procession...oh and machine guns...!
View of the Rosary Procession from above.

The spring in the grotto

The Grotto at night

Candles between the grotto and the baths.