Publié le : 2022-04-27 15:30:00
Catégories : Religious News
Table of contents :
What surprises the pilgrim on arrival in Lourdes is the large number of stretchers, wheelchairs and carers seen in the crowd. This is the result of a long tradition of welcoming the sick to the sanctuary.
In fact, as early as 1858, the year of the first apparitions, the sick or the parents of sick children flocked to this place of worship. More than anything else, the miraculous spring attracted people who were suffering. They were helped by family members, friends and neighbours to reach the spring from their homes. Even before the first miraculous healings were recognised by the Church, the sick flocked to Lourdes.
During the few months that the apparitions of Our Lady Mary to Bernadette Soubirous lasted, word of mouth was enough to bring more and more sick people to Lourdes. The first miraculous healings took place in 1858. Their official recognition by the Church in 1862 reinforced the enthusiasm of the sick.
The words transmitted to Bernadette Soubirous by Our Lady Mary were immediately interpreted as invitations by the immense crowd of Christians: "Let us come here in procession", "Come to the fountain to drink and wash". From the very first weeks of the apparitions, these words sounded like an invitation to the Christians. In the first year, about 30,000 pilgrims came to the shrine. In that year of 1858, seven miracles were later recognised by the Catholic Church in 1862.
These seven miracles concerned people living near Lourdes, Pau or in the Landes:
- Catherine Latapie, the first miraculous person, lived in Loubajac, a village nearby.
- Louis Bouriette, Blaisette Cazenave and Justin Buhort were all natives of Lourdes.
- Henri Busquet and Madeleine Rizan lived in Nay, near Pau.
- Finally, Marie Moreau came from Tartas in the Landes.
All these healings in 1858 testify to the local and regional influence of Lourdes. Very quickly, transport and reception infrastructures were put in place so that pilgrims and the sick from France, then from Europe and the rest of the world, could come to Lourdes and stay there.
To enable the sick or disabled to go there, the means of transport of the time were first used: stretchers, carts and then horse-drawn carriages.
The 19th century was the century of industrialisation and the development of transport. The arrival of the train in Lourdes in 1866 was one of the first ways of making the place of worship accessible to as many people as possible. Later, in the 20th century, the development of the road network and buses specially designed for the sick enabled them to travel to Lourdes in large numbers.
Then pilgrimages were organised especially for the sick by an increasing number of Catholic organisations. This is all the more remarkable because in order to move people who are suffering, it is often necessary to put in place logistics that allow them to be received in the best possible conditions of care and contemplation.
From 1862, the site was developed to create an infrastructure that could accommodate the thousands and then millions of pilgrims who came to Lourdes. In 1866, the opening of Lourdes station allowed the arrival of the first pilgrimage train. Because of this reception, Lourdes station has specific features not found elsewhere:
- the platforms are more numerous than elsewhere to allow the arrival of a large number of pilgrims at the same time.
- The Sanctuary of Lourdes is very popular with Italians, and a large number of trains come directly from Italy to stop at the Sanctuary.
The train remains the most suitable means for sick people to travel with minimum discomfort.
Along with the reception of patients, it is also necessary to organise the reception of accompanying persons. They are all volunteers. It is therefore necessary to provide places and facilities to welcome them: accommodation, food.
The first pilgrimages to the shrine were organised by parishes and dioceses. It was the parish of Loubajac in 1864 that was the first to organise a trip of its parishioners to the Sanctuary. Subsequently, the initiatives multiplied. In July 1973, the first national pilgrimage was organised.
Today, several pilgrimages are well known and allow many sick and handicapped people to come to Lourdes in the hope of a cure.
Among the most famous are
- the French national pilgrimage, which takes place every year on 15 August on the Feast of the Assumption,
- the pilgrimage of the Rosary initiated by the Dominicans, which takes place on 7 October each year
- the pilgrimage of faith and light: it is organised especially for the mentally disabled on the initiative of the association of the same name
- the pilgrimage of the sick from Paris and the Ile de France.
There would be no reception of the sick without the hospitality of Lourdes. There are 110 of them. The volunteers are called "hospitaliers", and most of the time they pay for their own travel and stay in Lourdes while they are at the disposal of the sick. The purpose of these hospices is to enable everyone to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary.
The most famous of these is the archconfraternity Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes. Between 20,000 and 30,000 volunteers fulfil this role within this group every year. Accompaniment covers all aspects of life: travel, meals, sleeping accommodation, visits to the sanctuary.
As early as 1878, welcome structures were created with the Accueil Marie Saint Frai, which opened 300 beds specifically for the sick. Later, the Accueil Notre-Dame created 900 beds for the sick in coordination with the Hospitalité Notre-Dame.
Finally, of course, each of the places of worship and prayer is adapted to accommodate people with reduced mobility: the basilicas, the sanctuary, the places of worship, the Stations of the Cross, are all equipped to allow the reception of the sick and disabled. The baths are the most symbolic place for welcoming the sick. There are always enough volunteers to help the sick who want to wash at the miraculous spring.
As the place of the apparitions of the Immaculate Conception but also of the miraculous spring, where everyone can drink and wash, the sanctuary of Lourdes has become a huge place of solidarity where the sick have a special place. Nowhere else in France is there such a concentration of people with reduced mobility and such mutual help. It is also this solidarity between volunteers and the disabled, between patients and carers, that makes up the image of Lourdes.