On the 7th of September, six Rhetoric students – Milo Rooney, Tom Cantillon, Martin Sutton, Sam Messayeh, Dara Corbett and Jeff Gibbons (left to right above) travelled to Lourdes as part of the annual Dublin Diocesan pilgrimage. They were accompanied by Mr. Francis Marron (on the right) and GAP student, Daniel Sheehan (left). Here School Secretary, Tom Cantillon (School Secretary) gives a brief report on their experiences…
It’s amazing how much of a difference you can make simply by talking with someone. That’s the first, and one of the most valuable lessons that I learned during my time spent in Lourdes. From the 7th to the 12th of September, six members of Rhetoric, along with GAP student Dan Sheehan and Mr Marron, took part in the annual Dublin Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. We went as part of a 150 strong school group, who were there to assist the many sick pilgrims that travelled with us.
Our work, and I use that term very lightly, began the second we stepped foot in the airport. We barely had time to check in our bags before we were instructed to mingle with the pilgrims. And mingle we did. We each paired off with a pilgrim and helped them through check-in, and security. There wasn’t that much actual ‘work’ to do, just chatting with them, and occasionally wheeling them around if they were confined to a wheelchair. Our flight was delayed, as it takes quite some time to help over a hundred sick and elderly pilgrims onto a plane, but soon we were on our way. Arriving in Lourdes airport, we went to our hotel, for some well-needed food and rest.
The next few days were characterised by early starts and late bedtimes. We filled our time with one of two activities. Milo, Jeff and Sam were on wards, where they chatted with the pilgrims, took them shopping, and ferried them to and from the many religious services that were taking place around the complex on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Martin, Dara and I manned the reception. One of our main tasks was to set up the voitures (three wheeled chariots for transporting pilgrims) that were needed to get the pilgrims around and helping them in and out of their various modes of transport.
At night, when our duties were done all the school group would gather for what is known as prairie. This is a form of night prayer, led by a different set of schools each night, and includes song and reflections; a sort of religious X-Factor, if you will. It was a really good opportunity to get to know the other students who were traveling with us and to generally unwind after the long day. Our proximity to an excellent ice-cream shop didn’t go amiss either!
Lourdes was described to me as Disneyland for Catholics once, and I have to say that it’s partially true. Nowhere else would you see as many shops selling religious paraphernalia, bathed in the light of glowing neon crosses. It truly is bizarre. Another aspect to Lourdes that is worth a mention is the baths. Famed for their healing properties, the baths are a must-go for anyone visiting Lourdes and truly an unforgettable experience.
We were only in Lourdes for a couple of days, but the experiences we had make it feel like it was so much longer. From the beauty of a thousand candles lighting up the night to learning how to say the ‘Hail Mary’ in German, French, Dutch and Spanish, it really was a trip of a lifetime. I grew in myself, made some great friends and had a lot of fun. I left Lourdes tired, smelly, and weighed down by several litres of holy water that I was requested to bring home with me. But I feel that we all took a lot more than that from the little grotto in the South of France.