Lourdes might be over for another year but for the young people who travelled by coach, there is already a sense of anticipation for next year’s pilgrimage. But why? What is so special about Lourdes for these young people who sacrifice so much to get there?
Lourdes is a place where we are able to unashamedly be witnesses to our faith. It is difficult to be a young person of faith at home as the fear of what others might think can often stifle that development. In Lourdes, all those worries are put to one side knowing that we are not alone – in fact, there are hundreds of other young people exploring and proclaiming their faith for all who want to hear (just go to Woody’s on the Saturday after Lourdes if you want more proof!).
Why do our young people go through the trials of a 26 hour coach journey, getting up early every day and working throughout the day, either in service to our assisted pilgrims or with their duties in their coach groups? It is a physically and mentally exhausting week but, to their credit, they are always ready and willing to help others. As soon as a job needs to be done, everyone rushes to volunteer. Anything involving our assisted pilgrims brings out the best in our young people who can’t wait to speak to them and share their Lourdes stories. Early morning duties are done with a smile and there is no such idea as missing a duty because we are tired or turning up late when others are depending on us. In a society that worries about what our young people are going to grow up to be, we need to look at the example of those who go to Lourdes.
So what does the future hold? For many, it will be a return to Lourdes and a year-long preparation and anticipation of the faith and service that awaits next year. For some (because we don’t all remain young forever), it may involve moving on to one of the other parts of the pilgrimage to create new memories with a new family of friends. For others, it may be that they are unable to return to Lourdes but that doesn’t mean that Lourdes is forgotten about. Lourdes and the coach they’ve been part of remain in the heart and the minds of those left behind while we are living our Lourdes experience. The first people to ‘like’ what we do on social media are often the ones who are watching from back at home.
So we may not be able to answer exactly why people do it every year, but we do know that we already can’t wait to do it again next year!
Dennis Jones – Coach Leader, Coach 7