Blind and now can see – Young people in Lourdes

Towards the end of July, a group of 77 young people joined the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.  For many young people, the opportunity to go to Lourdes with other young people, to pray at the holy shrine and to serve the VIPs proves to be a life-changing experience. Liberty Apricot Turner, 16, writes, ‘As a first year pilgrim I found Lourdes fascinating. At first I found the experience overwhelming but I soon began to notice and understand the amazing people that had traveled to Lourdes with the most interesting stories. For me my opinion changed for the better when I saw a sick child being blessed by the bishop and the mother standing beside her had the most beaming smile. Before this experience I was very blind when it came to God’s love. This experience really showed me the hope and happiness God can bring to people. I felt very close to home being in Lourdes and I cannot wait to return next year!’ For Alice O’Donnell, 16, it was a totally new experience too. She writes, ‘As this was my first time going to Lourdes I didn’t really know what to expect and I could never have imagined how amazing the experience would be. Whilst spending time with the VIPs I had the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world and to listen to some truly amazing stories that I will never forget. Every single person was so supportive and I really feel as if I have made friends for life and couldn’t have asked for a bettergroup of people to go on the journey with. My faith has grown so much and the experience has inspired me to put my faith into practice every day. From having the incredible experience of meeting Cardinal Vincent Nichols to holding the banner in the torchlight procession, I have so many special memories of the pilgrimage to Lourdes and I can’t wait to come back next year!’ Others spoke of the experience down at the Grotto late at night as ‘Deeply cleansing and spiritually rewarding’ as if ‘Our Lady was holding me in her heart, releasing all my inner pains, getting me back on track’. Another added, ‘The baths was an amazing spiritualexperience too; you felt bare and it felt easier to open up to God’ and the ‘The international Mass really showed just how many Catholics there are and how you are never alone in your faith. Being from a small parish, I rarely witness a vast amount of people praying and celebrating Mass. This trip showed me there are lots of people my age practising their faith. And the Cenacolo visit made me glad lives could be transformed for the better through faith’. Meeting new people, and especially the sick and those bound by wheelchairs, was another highlight. One young person explained how ‘hearing stories of people keeping their faith through tough times has encouraged me to strengthen my faith and to turn to God when I need prayers’, whilst another one, asked what will change in her life as a result of the pilgrimage, said, ‘I realized I wanted to get baptized’.