Earlier this month Fr Philip was pleased to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, as part of the Society of Mary's biennial pilgrimage. He writes:
Lourdes is a truly international place, and it was wonderful to join in the Shrine's programme of worship, particularly the International Mass and the candelit Rosary procession with thousands of other Christians from around the world.
The Shrine has been renowned since its foundation as a place of healing, and many pilgrims come with special intentions for physical and/or spiritual healing. It is very moving in Lourdes to witness the special dignity with which those who are in need are treated: we are reminded of Jesus' words, 'Whatever you did to the least of these my brothers and sisters you did to me.'
We are reminded at Lourdes in a very powerful way of the inherent value and dignity of every human life, that each and every person is created, known and loved by God.
Our pilgrimage group comprised around one hundred people, a mixture of clergy, laity and young people, who enjoyed a specifically tailored programme of activities in the Youth Village at Lourdes. As a group they prepared some very moving and profound devotions for Stations of the Cross.
The Shrine authorities are extremely welcoming and hospitable to this group of Anglican pilgrims, and we were able each today to have Mass together in one of the chapels within the Domaine.
This hospitality is highly significant and we ought not to take it for granted: it is in no small part thanks to the witness and perseverance of the Chaplain-General to the Society of Mary, Fr Graeme Rowlands, that the Society is now a recognized pilgrimage group at Lourdes, a feat which took a mere quarter-century to achieve!
We see at Lourdes the power of Our Lady's prayers, the love God has for each and every person and the dignity and worth he bestows on each of us, and in particular by coming together to worship with Christians from around the world, we receive a very important reminder that we are part of an institution that is much greater than just ourselves, and that we must pray earnestly and often the same prayer that Christ himself prayed, 'That they may all be one.'