Why do we go on pilgrimage?

Thursday 26th July 2018

Tomorrow 550 pilgrims from across the Diocese of Salford will make the 1000 mile journey to Lourdes, in the foothills of the French Pyrenees.  At the heart of the Salford pilgrimage are 23 sick pilgrims who are cared for by a team of volunteer doctors, nurses and carers who are assisted by lay volunteers.

But why do we go on pilgrimage?

Lourdes is one of the busiest Christian pilgrimage sites in the world with 4-6 million pilgrims visiting each year. Since pilgrimages began in 1860 it is estimated that over 200 million people have visited the Shrine. Pilgrimages to Lourdes began after the Virgin Mary appeared in a series of 18 apparitions to a poor 14 year old girl, named Bernadette Soubirous. These apparitions took place in a Grotto on the banks of the river Gave between February and July 1858.  During the 9th Apparition ‘the beautiful lady’ told Bernadette to go and dig in the dirt in the corner of the Grotto. After several attempts Bernadette unearthed the spring which is the still the source of the famous Lourdes water to this day. During the 13th apparition Our Lady told Bernadette to: ‘Go and tell the priests that the people are to come here in procession, and they are to build a church here.’ Pilgrims visit Lourdes in answer to this request.

It is a common misconception that most pilgrims visit Lourdes in order to experience a miracle. In the 160 years since the Apparitions took place, only 70 miracles have been officially acknowledged by the Catholic Church as having taken place at Lourdes. For Christians, pilgrimage is a chance to renew and strengthen your faith and sense of purpose. Life can be so hectic for many of us and pilgrimage gives us that time out away from the hustle and bustle of our daily routine to sit quietly and think about our lives, or to seek a solution to a problem or help with a major decision that we may have to make.

Some come on pilgrimage in search of  strength and guidance in times of difficulty or distress. For many sick pilgrims Lourdes gives an opportunity to bathe in the healing waters of the spring and to find peace with their prognosis rather than to seek a miraculous cure.

Lourdes is a wonderful place to restore your faith in humanity when witnessing the thousands of people who come to give their time willingly to help those in need.

Journalist Leon Spence sums up our pilgrimage experience perfectly:

Lourdes brings people, young and old, disabled or able-bodied, rich and poor together. No one ever judges you, where you come from, what you do for a living or what type of house you live in. The fact is you are there, in Lourdes, on a shared experience of faith and everyone is accepted.’

To follow the updates of this years Salford Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage please visit our website: www.salfordlourdes.co.uk

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