Pilgrimage Day 3

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Home Page > Travelogues > France > Lourdes > Pilgrimage Night 2, Day 3, and Departure

Other Chapters in the Lourdes section: Lourdes Sanctuary ] Pont Vieux ] Fort and City ] Pilgrimage Day 1 ] Pilgrimage Day 2 ] [ Pilgrimage Day 3 ]


47th Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Part 3


The middle day was a long day and an even longer night.  But the night event was our absolute favorite -- the Maria Procession.  This event brought everyone together in a candlelight procession through the streets of Lourdes and to the front of the Basilica.  The photographs here do not do justice to the beauty of the event.  Day 3 would seem to have been anticlimactic as it was a short day with the Closing Ceremony taking place around lunchtime, but it seemed like the best was saved for last!


This is Veronica holding the candles that all carried during the procession.  (In probable violation of every known fire code) The candles were placed inside paper shades.  As later photos show, when the shade was directly over the flame the candle took on the appearance of a flowering light.  This shot was taken as our group stood in front of the hotel waiting for the procession to pass by.

The procession was led by bands playing music, followed by the color guards and several groups of service members carrying some important items.  For example, this international team carried the cross.  Another group carried a lighted statue of the Virgin Mary.  Once the mass throng appeared holding their candles, we knew it was time to join.

This was the sea of candles.  The procession moved forward slowly, listening to and singing a song honoring Mary over loudspeakers.  As the refrain came, "Ave Ave Ave Maria," all stopped and raised their candles in the air, such as this moment captured in the photo.

This was the scene at the Basilica.  I was fortunate to gain a vantage point on a park bench.  A small chorus sang beautiful hymns as the thousands assembled listened and chanted.  There were prayers said and blessings given before the procession dispersed.  We got back to the hotel by midnight.

The late night (and probably partying afterwards) did not deter the crowds from returning to the Basilica for the Sunday morning Mass.  Again, it was an international event.

This Mass was celebrated with an international choir, shown in this photo, with the Vatican Guards present at stage left. 

This was our first large-scale outdoor Mass, so it was our first exposure to the notion of 'communion umbrellas.'  Rather than have everyone queue up, a whole bunch of Eucharistic Ministers went among the crowd to make themselves available to all those who wanted Communion.

This was the recession.  The priests, Vatican guards, and color guards followed a roped path out from the Basilica, with the main celebrant showering the crowd with Holy Water.

About an hour later, it was sadly time for the closing ceremony.  Similar to the opening ceremony, a group of bands paraded into the Basilica courtyard, each band from a different nation and with a very different musical style.  The orange band, for example, was an Irish bagpipe band.

From our terrific vantage point on the Basilica's left wing, we watched as the Vatican guards led the color guards into the courtyard. 

The stage for the closing ceremony hosted a choir and a group of German Soldiers as torch bearers.  I do not recall what each torch represented, but their lighting was preceded by a different prayer. 

As the ceremony concluded and the final recession took place, these three banners were mounted to bid all a safe journey home.

Our train did not depart until early evening for the long ride back to Germany.  We spent much of that afternoon completing our tour of the city and collecting souvenirs of our time, all the while reflecting on the special occasion we had just witnessed.  The three days of fellowship with Catholics from around the world went incredibly fast, and we did not know if we'd ever get to go back to Lourdes again.  Lourdes hosts a number of pilgrimages like this from spring through fall, and they offer a tremendous opportunity to renew one's faith.

Trip taken 25-27 May 2004 -- Page Last Updated 04 October 2006 -- (C) 2006 Tom Galvin

Other Chapters in the Lourdes section: Lourdes Sanctuary ] Pont Vieux ] Fort and City ] Pilgrimage Day 1 ] Pilgrimage Day 2 ] [ Pilgrimage Day 3 ]


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