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Lourdes pilgrimage ‘a sneak preview of heaven’

May 15, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

A pilgrimage to Lourdes is “like a sneak preview of what heaven is,” said Florian Romero, who helped organize a trip to Rome, Assisi, Florence, Barcelona, and Lourdes for a group of Catholics from San Francisco and the Philippines.

A highlight of the pilgrimage came during the pilgrimage to Rome when Pope Francis picked up and blessed Romero’s baby grandniece.

“Lourdes is a place where you get the sense that the vast majority are there as pilgrims,” said Basilian Father Anthony Giampietro who led the April 20-May 3 pilgrimage, concluding in Lourdes, France.

The grotto at Lourdes is where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous 18 times during 1858. The water from the spring St. Bernadette dug from the mud at the Blessed Mother’s direction flows freely, from fountains, and down rocks, and pilgrims are free to take as much as they want, said Romero. The Catholic Church has recognized 68 miracles attributed to the waters at Lourdes. The International Medical Committee of Lourdes, a group of about 20 physicians, has certified another 2,000 unexplained cures.

“That our Blessed Mother appeared to a simple girl as St. Bernadette in a grotto gives one the sure knowledge that God the Father, through the mother of his son, comes to us constantly, although perhaps not so dramatically,” said Mary Podesta, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont. “Having never been on a pilgrimage or to Europe, I was particularly struck by the deep faith of all the pilgrims one encounters and the immensity of the history of Catholicism,” said Podesta.

“It’s a place where people from all around the world pray together every night,” said Father Giampietro, who is interim development director for the archdiocese, noting the candlelight rosary procession draws 60,000 people nightly. The procession during their visit included the Knights of Malta who bring the sick and handicapped to the healing waters of Lourdes, Father Giampietro said. “You have people who in this country are the upper crust, serving the malades (French for sick),” he said.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was in Lourdes with the Western Association, USA, of the Knights of Malta. The archbishop celebrated Mass and shared a meal with the 18 travelers.

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