Up at 5:45am this morning I wanted to attend the early mass at the grotto. Our Lady had asked Bernadette “Would you do me the favor of coming here?” Even though the information office had informed me of a 6:45am mass, when I arrived there was no service. I wasn’t disappointed; rather it allowed me to sit in mediation at the grotto with relatively few people.
The church bells rang Ave Maria on the hour. I visited again the water spring, the rock below where Mary appeared (her statue appears there now), and stood for some time in prayer at the large tower of candles where Bernadette must have fallen on her knees in rapture to see Our Lady.
I’m not so very pious in a Catholic sense. My aim is to always stop and feel the inner message. As my spiritual teacher Paramhansa Yogananda said, “To those who think me near, I will be near.” Pray for apparitions that can be felt in ones own heart. I pray not so much for my burning feet but rather for my heart and soul to be free.
After meditating at the uplifting grotto I went next to silently wait in a long queue to take a “bath” in the holy water. Our Lady told Bernadette to “Go drink of the fountain and wash yourself there.” The two hour wait included more Hail Mary prayers, singing, and other recitations in languages I don’t understand.
Sunrise as I waited at the baths.
Let me tell about the baths! After the long wait while scooting along benches outside, one is directed into an inner room on more waiting benches, scooting forward space by space. Then I move into yet another inner space behind curtains. I started to get a little trepidation over the mystery of it! At this point you are instructed in French to disrobe. A woman holds a thick large cape behind you and turns her head.
I removed my clothing, placing it on a wall hook, and was immediately covered in the thick warm long cloak. I was instructed to wait in a certain spot in front of the next curtain. Then the curtain opened to reveal four more attendants and the bath. The person before me was ushered out and I was shuffled in.
Next a woman was facing me with a thinner long white nylon cloak. The woman behind me removed the thick cloak, the freezing cold wet white one was swiftly wrapped on me from the front. I’m quite sure in all this swiftness that not one person ever saw any part of me that might be considered private.
Then two women each took me by the upper arm and walked me forward to the stone tub, less than 3′ (1 meter) deep in water. I step down three steps and proceed forward to the front of the large smooth grey granite basin. Suddenly, whoosh! I’m down! I’m up! I’ve been baptized! Everything but my head went under the water and back up in a flash of a second. COLD! Invigorating, startling, and some how freeing.
The attendants recited a short prayer to Mary and Bernadette for me and I was ushered out, making way for the next woman wait in queue with her thick cape on.
Would I do the bath again if in Lourdes? Absolutely. Of course it is a personal experience, but I found it quite a deep blessing. Try to make the time to do a bath if in Lourdes.
(The wall where one may fill bottles with Lourdes spring water.)
After the bath I attended a mass in English in the main pavilion. The priest’s message was, “When I am inpatient, let me remember I am a Pilgrim and not a tourist. When I judge others, let me remember I am a Pilgrim and not a tourist…..” It seemed fitting as I begin the Camino Pilgrimage tomorrow.
There is more to explore in Lourdes as a tourist, like the big castle on the hill, riding the tourist train, visiting Bernadette’s homes. For me I’ve come for one reason: to feel the presence of Our Lady, Divine Mother, the Goddess. She is the reason to visit. The cathedral is splendid, and it feels an appropriate response of mankind to build such a thing in adoration of such a loving Divine Presence.
In my short time here I fit in all that I needed to and felt very blessed by my experiences. I feel spiritually recharged to begin my Camino Walk tomorrow. If you want to Walk With Me, follow the link at the top of the page. Check back…. I’ll post my Camino experiences as I go. Joy and blessings to you!