Dom James joined the OMV Lourdes Pilgrimage at the end of July during a heat wave with temperatures close on 40 degrees centigrade. There were around thirty-five in the Downside group, including pupils from the School and young Old Gregorians.

There was a good spirit amongst all the pilgrims, and the volunteers appreciated and learnt much from the cheerfulness of the hospital pilgrims. Pilgrims found the Marian Torchlight procession and the Blessed Sacrament service in the vast underground Basilica of Pius X particularly moving.

The pilgrimage outing this year took place at Bartres, just outside Lourdes, where the young Bernadette Soubirous spent some of her childhood. This was a very welcome and enjoyable break in the week.

Each pilgrim will have been heartened by something during the action packed week. It is always difficult to capture in a few lines the wonderful spirit amongst the pilgrims in this very special place. Pilgrims come to Lourdes to pray and to be healed. At the same time they encounter a spirit of friendliness, understanding and compassion. The challenge for all is to be able to bring back to one’s busy life at home that spirit of companionship and concern for others that is very much part of the OMV Lourdes Pilgrimage.

One volunteer has written: ‘I met lots of new people and made good friends. I arrived at the pilgrimage feeling optimistic, but also slightly nervous. However, everybody was extremely friendly and helpful and I soon settled in to the exciting but certainly intense routine. The three core principles of the pilgrimage were ‘spiritual’, ‘care’ and ‘social’. It is only by balancing these three elements that one can successfully throw oneself into the spirit of Lourdes and make the most out of their time there. It was inspiring to meet people from different stages of life and to hear about their own time with the OMV. I knew after my very first few days that I would want to return to Lourdes with this pilgrimage for many more years to come. Participating in the OMV Lourdes Pilgrimage is a unique experience and I would thoroughly recommend this pilgrimage to any Downside pupils who are able to attend.’

Images courtesy of the OMV. Click here for more.