Ever since I was in the sixth form I would join the HCPT pilgrimage Trust for their Easter Pilgrimage to Lourdes, as a helper and then as a chaplain. It was a very formative part of my life as a priest.
What was wonderful was being in this special place for Easter week. As a group of helpers and children we would celebrate Mass every day thus having the opportunity to reflect on the Easter Message.
Most of the time the weather helped. The sunshine and the new foliage on the trees and when we were in Gavarnie up in the Pyrenees, the meadows covered with flowers. It was also a time of healing for many of us both children and helpers. We faced our weaknesses and disabilities and the presence of Mary and the care shown to one another was a source of healing.
Sadly this year there is no pilgrimage. The shrine is empty of pilgrims but the rosary is broadcast everyday and you can visit the grotto through Lourdes TV on the internet. It is important to remember the joy of Easter especially at this time of distress and anxiety.
There is an apt verse in the hymn for morning prayer
Author of all, be thou our guide
In this our joy of Eastertide;
Whene’er assaults of death impend,
Thy people strengthen and defend.