I can’t recall ever feeling ‘awakened by the spirit’, until I went to Lourdes, France.
Lourdes is a small town in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southwest France. It’s known worldwide as a major Catholic pilgrimage site where 69 miraculous cures have been recognized. Located there is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes with multiple spectacular churches found within. Annually, millions of pilgrims and tourists will visit the Sanctuary and the Grotto of Massabielle where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858.
My trip to Lourdes
wasn’t the easiest. I was in Grenoble, France (about 6.5 hours Northeast of Lourdes) when I started to plan my travel logistics. Flight or Train? Too expensive. Bus? Couldn’t find one that went there. Car? Don’t have one.
After an hour into planning I had become frustrated and thought about ditching my plan completely, when a ‘BlaBla Car rideshare’ appeared in my phone app. I could hitch a ride from two different cars with overlapping paths to make it to my destination. Sure, I had to ride with complete strangers, but they were previously reviewed by other passengers and seemed legit. I thought ‘what the heck I have nothing to lose’. [Read “Ride Sharing Isn’t as Scary as You Think”]
When I arrived at my budget hotel that I had booked for 3 nights ($30/night – wow I was splurging), I settled into my room and slept for about 12 hours, no joke. The following afternoon I popped into the main tourist office, picked up some maps and began exploring. As I was walking about to the Sanctuary, I grabbed a few ‘pain au chocolat’ pastries and as I walked down the path into Rosary Square I had no idea what I was in for.
The minute my eyes became fixated on the Basilica my body became completely numbed with chills, my eyes filled with tears and I could not bring myself to look away. For the first time in my entire life I had felt that all the sacrifice and joy that I had experienced throughout my lifetime was coming together for this one particular moment. My mind started racing back through some of the
craziest and hardest times of my life. Losing loved ones, failing at projects I had worked so hard on, broken relationships, getting personally attacked by people I loved most, wondering why bad things happen to good people, picking up the broken pieces and gluing myself back together. My mind was racing so fast but organizing all of these moments that strengthened my faith, purpose and being. I could feel the grief, hardships and tragedies that had plagued my past, however the weight of them no longer existed. I felt free. I felt an understanding of my life and in hindsight how it all fit together to make me who I am today. I could no longer think logically or focus on the present moment. I was completely overwhelmed with an emotion that I had never felt before. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I could do nothing but marvel in the beauty of this place while being completely surrounded by peace, joy and understanding.
When I was finally able to pull myself together, I walked up the steps into the Upper Basilica to explore. I absolutely hate crying in pubic but the tears of joy continued against my wishes. As I walked around this breathtaking place I was so grateful to be Catholic and I extended my stay through the end of the week.
During the next few days, I spent time alone in silence praying at the Sanctuary for family and friends as well as my own direction, purpose and strength.
I often find myself feeling lost or wanting something more.
Through prayer I have always found myself; cultivating hope, knowing that I am never alone and trusting in the plan that God has for me.
I firmly believe that our spiritual lives help guide us toward the truth. I believe that faith brings the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see. I believe that you don’t ‘have’ a soul. You are a soul, and you ‘have’ a body.
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. ” -Edith Wharton