|Lourdes Immersion 2015 - 23 October 2015|
On Saturday 12 September, six Year 11 girls, Ms Crowley and Ms Manders began the long 30 hours of travel to France. Arriving in Paris and being able to spend the day walking around and exploring was unforgettable. The beautiful old streets were amazing and something so different from what we are used to here in Brisbane. We were immediately immersed in the French culture, including eating snails. The next day we awoke early as our six hour train ride to Lourdes awaited us.
As part of our service in Lourdes we were extremely privileged to be able to help out in the Grotto, a role which generally requires five years of practised service. This therefore heightened our experience as we stood inside the Grotto quietly directing people. Being able to watch as people walked around touching the rock, some even attempting to lie their whole body on it, in loving memory of someone or in a hope for their own or another’s healing was an experience we will never forget.
Pilgrims gather at the Grotto to pray and renew their faith. One form of this is through the gesture of touching the rock. This gesture comes from the bible where the Lord is often called "my rock". The gesture is to place a hand upon the rock and lean upon it as we would lay a hand on a friend’s shoulder to show our trust in that person. It is a gesture which says that we have trust in that person in spite of fears, betrayals, doubts, sufferings and difficulties. The feeling of hope present in this sacred place can be felt by everyone and it is obvious that the community created here provides an additional sense of support. As the people, who had travelled from all over the world, walked through the Grotto and leaned on this rock for support, hope and faith, it made us realise that we too lean on our friends and family for support.
In Lourdes, light is viewed as a symbol of guidance and this is particularly seen within the candle-lit Marian procession held every night. This procession starts at the Grotto and ends with a final blessing from the priests in the square in front of the Rosary Basilica. The procession follows the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, and creates a candle-lit path around the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Lourdes. Pilgrims join together to pray the Rosary. This tradition, which has occurred every night since 1872, guides us towards God through prayer as we open our hearts and let God’s light shine in, just as Bernadette did.
The symbol of water is very obvious throughout Lourdes. Many people come to the small city of Lourdes to attend masses, be in prayer and find spiritual and physical healing. The water is seen as cleansing and revitalizing to the soul and body. One of the best experiences we had, that utilized the symbolic meaning of water, was the bathing ritual. All of us came into the bathing ritual where we were dipped into the freezing water. The bathing experience was cleansing and certainly took us out of our comfort zones.
The story of Bernadette and the region of Lourdes have a link to water as a source of hope and healing. The holy water provides physical healing for those who have disabilities and illnesses as well as being a symbol of prayer and thought when many, including ourselves, search for spiritual healing. Here at Lourdes Hill we are lucky enough to be surrounded by a constant reminder of water and what it means to each of us. We learnt that 'it is what it is' and the power of going with the flow (no pun intended).
During our time in Lourdes we learnt patience, hope and the ability to forgive. It would be safe to say that over the course of the trip many things did not always go to plan; however without these obstacles, and the help of our teachers, we would never have discovered our strength. With every challenge we faced, we learnt the power of group prayer and how a little faith can go a long way.
As our week of service in Lourdes drew to a close, we prepared ourselves to say goodbye to the incredible place we had all learned to love. Our time spent in Lourdes was unforgettable and the memories we made and experiences we shared will always stay with us. However, as we said goodbye Lourdes, two more days in Paris were awaiting us. In this time we visited all the touristy places including the Louvre and the Eiffel tower as well as doing lots of shopping. Our trip had then come to a close and the gruelling 30 hours of travel home began.
We are grateful for the support of the College and our families and we are especially grateful for the leadership and care shown by Ms Manders and Ms Crowley. We do know how lucky we are to have had this experience.
Visiting Lourdes and being able to experience the connection to the place our school was named after was truly incredible. Lourdes has truly moved us all. In discovering and following the footsteps of Bernadette we learnt that although our confidence may lack at times, we always have hope, just like Bernadette who trusted in Mary and went on to touch millions of people.
Katie Scanlan, Kody Galea, Lia Drivas, Bianca Hart, Kaitlyn Rainbow and Brooke Bostock
The students wrote a blog while on their trip. You can view the full blog here:www.lourdesimmersion2015.blogspot.com