Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Beautiful Town of Lourdes

February 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Below are some pictures of the enchanting town of Lourdes, France, from my visit there in October of 2015. Situated at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, Lourdes is a beautiful little town, complete with a Medieval castle overlooking the area. Lourdes is the site of a series of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous in 1958, over the course of several months. During one of the apparitions, Mary directed Bernadette to find a spring in the grotto, instructing people to drink from the water and to wash themselves with it.

The grotto of the apparition has been well preserved. Pilgrims are able to enter, touch the walls, and view the location, now behind Plexiglass, where Bernadette found the spring. A beautiful church complex was built over the rock formation in which the grotto is located. More recently, under the promenade leading to the grotto, a huge, modern-style basilica was built, large enough to accommodate 25,000 people, making it the third largest basilica in the world. This underground church might initially strike visitors more as a backup parking garage rather than as a church, but the space has a power of its own in its aggressive starkness. Ironically, the basilica is named after St. Pius X, who was not exactly a fan of modernity.

5 million people visit Lourdes every year. Pilgrims can drink from the water and are able to bathe in it through an elaborate, stream-lined process. Visitors can also tour the buildings where Bernadette lived while she was at Lourdes. From March through October, thousands of people participate in a nightly candle light procession, involving multi-lingual prayers. A nightly Eucharistic procession is also held in the underground basilica. Close to the grotto, a life-sized set of the Stations of the Cross winds up the side of a wooded hill, inviting pilgrims to a prayerful walk, with a stunning view of the surrounding area.

Lourdes has a profound spiritual power, and from a spiritual perspective, the experience of this shrine was an amazing spiritual highlight. On the other hand, the rows and rows of shops selling all kinds of articles of commercialized religion can be disturbing and spiritually deflating. God and mammon are both present in this place - it is our choice which we embrace. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

In the Jordan River

In January of 2016, I led a group of 45 people on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Jordan. In Jordan, we visited the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Due to irrigational use, the river has been substantially narrowed in this area, and today the actual site of the baptism is a little distance away from the water on the Jordanian side. The area of the river closest to the baptism site can be accessed both from Jordan and from Israel, a small marker separating the two sides in the water.

Our visit fell on January 19th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany in the Eastern rites. A large group of Iraqi Christians were visiting the site that day in honor of the feast. Over the years, millions of refugees have found shelter in the country of Jordan, especially Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians. Many of the refugees are Arab Christians, who trace their spiritual roots to the preaching of the first disciples of Christ.

Standing on the bank of the river, we renewed our baptismal vows as a group. Later, I went into the water and submerged myself three times. The water was very cold and very muddy, but going in was a powerful experience. Given the narrowness of the river at this spot, I also had to be careful not to cross the international border, because once I was in the water, I was standing just a few feet away from Israel.