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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ave Maria Night at Lourdes



The famous French writer Emile Zola first visited Lourdes in September 1891 and was taken aback by the number of pilgrims that visited the shrine of Santa Maria. He returned the following year during August, which is the busiest period for pilgrimages, and spent time with the pilgrims, carrying out interviews and observations to form the basis of his novel, ‘Lourdes’ which was published in 1894.

During his visit Zola watched the Ave Maria evening procession and described it in his novel: 
”Thirty thousand candle lights were burning there, still and ever revolving, quickening their sparkles under the vast calm heavens where the planets had grown pale. A luminous glow ascended in company with the strains of the hymn which never ceased. And the roar of voices incessantly repeating the refrain of 'Ave, Ave, Ave Maria' was like the very crackling of those hearts of fire which were burning away in prayers in order that souls might be saved. “

Every day from April to October at 5pm the Lourdes pilgrims respond to the request of Santa Maria by gathering for the Eucharist Procession. The procession begins at the open-air altar on the prairie across the river from the grotto and is led by sick pilgrims followed by a priest, bishop or cardinal carrying a the Holy Eucharist.

Then at 9PM the pilgrims from all over the world gather for the procession of Ave Maria of Lourdes. The procession begins near the Grotto and continues around the esplanade ending in the Rosary square. The procession is led by sick pilgrims followed by volunteers carrying a replica of the statue of Santa Maria. The focus of this candle lit procession is the rosary. All five decades are recited, usually in a variety of languages. The Lourdes Hymn is also sung, with verses in different languages. Intercessions may be invoked followed by the Laudate Mariam.

In the serenity of the evening, each pilgrim carries his or her own personal intentions as the Ave Maria song was repeated over and over during the procession lit by thousands of candle lights. As Emile Zola wrote in the novel: “The roar of voices incessantly repeating the refrain of 'Ave, Ave, Ave Maria’, penetrates one's very skin. It seems to me as though my whole body were at last singing it.”

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Ave Maria Day at Lourdes


Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France. It lies at an elevation of 420 m and in a central position through which runs the fast-flowing river Gave de Pau. Every year, Lourdes is visited by millions of pilgrims, they come to see the site of a famous vision experienced by a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous.

Pilgrims may visit to be cleansed of their sins and to be cured of their illnesses. It is believed that spring water from the grotto can heal people if they are sick. Millions of visitors come to Lourdes each year in the hope of being cured. The one of the reasons for pilgrims to go to Lourdes, is to bathe in the spring water, to be fully immersed into the bath and drink the water for cleansing and healing. The bath is a symbol of baptism and also strengthening the faith of the pilgrims.

The history began on 11th  February 1858, as Bernadette Soubrirous, a 14-year-old local girl, went out with her sister Toinette, and a friend Jeanne, to fetch firewood near the local grotto.  Suddenly, a lady appeared to her in a brilliant white dress tied with a blue ribbon; her body was covered with a long white veil that fell to her feet. This lady later identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" which is an attribute of Santa Maria.

Santa Maria then appeared 18 times to Bernadette, and on 25th February She asked the girl to dig up a spring of water where none had been found before. Santa Maria told her “Go and drink at the Spring and wash yourself there”.  Even though this area was muddy, the next day, the ground flowed with clear water. Almost immediately cures were reported from drinking the water, and since then many people were cured by applying or drinking the water. The Spring water of Lourdes became popular because of the miracles associated with it.

What is particularly striking to the casual visitor is the number of sick and disabled people present in Lourdes. All those traumatised by life may find a certain degree of comfort in Lourdes. Officially, 80,000 sick and disabled people from many countries come to Lourdes each year. Despite their wounds or disabilities, they feel they are in a haven of peace and joy.

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