St. Bede Parish Pilgrimage to The Shrines of France October 2015.

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1 St. Bede Parish Pilgrimage to The Shrines of France October Day 1 Monday 10th October. An early start from St. Bede for our flight to Toulouse. We arrived at and boarded our coach for the two hour drive to Lourdes. We checked into our Hotel Chapelle el Parc, had lunch and settled in our rooms. We reconvened in the evening for our opening mass at in the Chapelle Notre Dame des Douleurs opposite the hotel. After mass, we were led by our Pilgrimage Leader, Damien Kearney and Spiritual Director, Canon Martin O'Connor on an orientation tour of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. We started in the Rosary Square with the Angelus at

2 Then back to the hotel for dinner, night prayers and a good night's sleep. Day 2 Tuesday 11th October. After breakfast, we walked towards the Sanctuary and up the hill to the Chapelle Mater Dolorosa, at the side of the Upper Basilica, for our group mass.

3 Mass was followed by The Stations of the Cross. One group led by Fr. Martin did the High Stations over various gradients and a second group, led by Damien, did the low, flatter and less demanding stations on the opposite side of the grotto by the River Gave.

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5 Then back to the hotel for lunch and a break before setting out for a walking tour of Lourdes, with excellent commentary from Damien, visiting various places associated with Bernadette. We first visited the Museum of St Bernadette with exhibits of her life, family, homes, the 18 apparitions between 11 February and 16 July 1858, her life after the apparitions and the development of Lourdes over the last 170+ years. Bernadette was born on 7th January 1844 in Lourdes and baptised two days later in the former parish church dedicated to St. Peter. The church was destroyed by fire and nothing of it exists.

6 The Boly Mill, was for 10 years, a place of happiness for Bernadette. She lived here with her parents, brothers, sister, grandparents and other family members. In the Spring of 1854, the family were unable to pay the rent and were forced to move to a cheaper mill. In 1855 there was a cholera epidemic and in 1856 famine struck the area. In 1857 the family were poverty stricken and forced to seek accommodation in the Old Jail << The Cachot>>. She then worked as a housemaid in a farm in Bartres till January 1858, just three weeks before the Apparitions.

7 Then back to the hotel for a rest and dinner before the Marian Torchlight Procession at

8 Day 3 Wednesday 12th October. After breakfast, we walked to the Sanctuary and to the St. Pius X Underground Basilica international mass at Fr. Martin was a concelebrant.

9 We then assembled at by the Crowned Virgin statue in Rosary Square and made our way to St. Michael's Gate where we gathered in prayer and reflections before our passage through the Door of Mercy led by Fr. Martin. We then had our group photograph taken and gathered in the empty St. Pius X Underground Basilica for Morning Prayers and Hymns sung in loud voice.

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11 After lunch at midday, a free afternoon to visit the baths, or pray and reflect at the grotto. We then reconvened in the underground basilica for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Then it was back to the hotel for our last evening together in Lourdes. After dinner we gathered together for Night Prayers and to reflect on our three days in Lourdes.

12 Day 4 Thursday 13th October. After breakfast, we boarded the coach for our drive to Rocamadour, a lesser known shrine in France. Our journey started with Morning Prayers. We stopped for lunch at midday and arrived at The lovely village of Rocamadour is on the eastern edge of the area, across the border from the Dordogne into the Lot department. Each year the small village of Rocamadour (population around 600), in the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy, receives more than a million visitors. Why is it so popular? Firstly because Rocamadour is an important pilgrimage destination, and has been for 1000 years. Built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, the shrine became famous for its healing powers, and soon became a stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela. Secondly, it is the beautiful and dramatic setting of the village, climbing up a cliff side. The village is essentially just one paved street, lined with medieval houses, several of which are notable and many of which are impressive, and passing through stone fortified gateways - the Porte du Figuier and the Porte Salmon are the two main gateways. The Grand Escalier (216 steps, once climbed by pilgrims on their knees) leads from the village to the sanctuaries above, and L'Hospitalet, with its views of the old town. The sanctuaries include the Chapelle Notre Dame - home to the Black Madonna - and the basilica Saint-Sauveur; the Saint-Michel chapel; the Palace of the Bishops (Palais des Eveques) and three chapels. Some climbed the stairs and others took the lift to the top where we enjoyed the breath-taking views of the area before celebrating Holy Mass in the Chapelle Notre Dame - home to the Black Madonna.

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14 After mass there was free time to explore this world famous site.

15 We then checked into the Hotel Chateau du Roc. After dinner there was the petit train tour at night, viewing this beautiful ancient pilgrimage Citadel from the opposite side of the gorge. Day 5 Friday 14th October. After breakfast, we boarded the coach for our drive to Nevers, on the Loire river. After Morning Prayers and a midday stop for lunch, we arrived at Nevers is the prefecture of the Nièvre department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in central France. 260 km south-southeast of Paris, Nevers is also a place of pilgrimage. The Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a simple country girl from Lourdes. Several miracles occurred as a result of this and Lourdes then became a famous place for pilgrims. Persuaded of her calling, she became a nun, in July 1866 at St. Gildard, a convent of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. She died there in 1879, was beatified and later canonised in Her body has lain at the Espace Bernadette Soubirous, 34 Rue St-Gildard since 1925 and every year half a million people stop at the shrine. Nevers is also on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Holy Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Shrine which contains the incorrupt remains of St. Bernadette, followed by a visit to the Convent of St. Gildard.

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17 After checking into the IBIS Hotel, there was free time to explore Nevers before dinner. Day 6 Saturday 15th October. After breakfast, we boarded the coach for our drive to Paray-le-Monial. As usual, we started the drive with Morning Prayers and arrived at Paray-le-Monial is a picturesque little town in the Saône-et-Loire region of Burgundy in eastern France. The river Bourbince flows through and across the town. It owes its worldwide fame to the facts that occurred within its walls during the 17th century. Close to the town s famous Roman basilica, is the small modest Chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation. Built in 1633, this Church witnessed during the years , the Revelations of Christ to a humble nun, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque. Margaret Mary experienced numerous apparitions which were confirmed by her confessor, a Jesuit, Saint Claude La Colombière. Jesus requested the introduction of the feast of the Sacred Heart, which would take place every year in June. Following these apparitions, the spirituality of the Sacred Heart spread throughout the whole world. Saint Margaret Mary was canonised on 13th May 1920 and Saint Claude la Colombière on 12th May 1992.

18 Damien took us on a tour of the Sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial, known as the City of the Sacred Heart, a visit to the Monastery and the churches containing the relics of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Claude la Colombiere. Our closing Mass was in the Church of the Apparitions.

19 We then adjourned to a local hotel for lunch from a traditional French menu. Then there was free time to explore the town before our drive to Lyon Airport at We left Lyon at and arrived in London at 20.10, for our final coach transfer to St. Bede, Chadwell Heath. All agreed it was a most fulfilling week both spiritually and socially thanks to Fr. Martin and Damien. Please note dates of photographs are correct but times are UK. So add one hour. Thanks to Mike Keating too for sharing many of his photographs in this story book. Larry Fernandes. October 2016.

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