Thursday, September 04, 2014

Lourdes by candlelight

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 7 (Evening)
After checking out the Upper Basilica at Lourdes and sampling the holy water at the Grotto, we were just in time for the Blessed Sacrament Procession in the Underground Basilica – The Basilica of St. Pius X. The Underground Basilica is fairly modern, and has been accused of looking like an underground car park. But I rather liked it. It reminded me of an aircraft hanger. 

 I particularly liked the pop-art crucifix at the altar.

The mass was in progress when we entered. An Italian cardinal on loan from the Vatican was presiding. An American gospel singer (didn’t catch her name) was leading the choir. It was possibly the most impressive mass I’ve ever attended.

After the mass, the cardinal blessed the procession, and they trooped out: nuns and priests and laypersons and people in wheelchairs. We did not follow the procession. We slipped out for dinner

We had dinner and killed time until 9 PM, when it was time for the famous Candlelight Procession. Blandine bought herself a candle and we made our way back to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

 Priests and laypeople and congregations from all over the world and people in wheelchairs were lining up by the grotto, along the river.

We decided it would be too much of a sweat to join the procession. Instead, we located a strategic viewing point on the Upper Basilica, and stationed ourselves there. 

It turned out to be an excellent spot. We got a bird’s eye view of the entire procession. Until the procession started, I got the time to take a few photos of the crown atop the upper basilica from up close, and also of the Lourdes Castle, which looks right up close from that vantage point.

And then the procession started off.

In the courtyard below, a long sequence of laypeople from various churches around the world came and said Hail Mary in various languages: French, of course. And Latin, English, German, Tamil, Spanish. I could make out those languages, and a bunch of other languages I could not. The English Hail Mary’s were said with a distinct Scottish accent: It seemed to be Scottish Evening at Lourdes: there were at least four Scotch congregations present. 

Actually, it was pretty interesting for me. I’d heard of Hail Mary, of course: in novels. But I had no idea what the words were. Now I got to hear it about 600 times, in various languages and accents! In case you don’t know it either, this is how it goes, in English:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
It sounds even better in Latin:
Avé María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus
The procession made a long loop around the courtyard. It looked impressive with the Lourdes castle looking down.

 It grew darker. The candles were lit. And then we had the candlelight procession in all its glory.

At our viewing point, after a bit of difficulty with the wind, I managed to light up the candle for Blandine. Here is a pic of her, watching the procession from a gap in the balustrade, candle in hand.

After the procession was over, Blandine was in a very sentimental mood. 

She wanted to take a selfie of us on the Upper Basilica. Now, I am one of the few people in the world still not infected by this selfie virus. But since Blandine insisted, I took it. Here it is: my first and probably my last selfie… Blandine and me on the Upper Basilica in Lourdes at twilight:

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