Our Lady of Lourdes 11th February

For some reason I always remember that this was the day I was confirmed in St. Kentigern’s in Blackpool, quite a few years ago now. But for me this feast always reminds me of my trips to Lourdes with HCPT. I had never wanted to visit a Marian shrine, but parishioners in Carlisle persuaded me to go with HCPT, pilgrimages for children with disabilities (and others actually), and it changed me completely. I was on a zoom meeting with the representatives of the Northern Dioceses Environment Group today and the new person who is the Salford Diocese Environment Officer (a new post and a very good idea, recommended by the Bishops’ Conference) introduced herself and said HCPT was one of her formative experiences as a young Catholic. (I had not intended to go to another shrine but I think I am committed to go to Medjugorje now after Bernard Loveland’s funeral. He was a great pilgrim there and was always trying to get me to go.) The great thing about Lourdes is that it puts the sick at the centre of the community, it is there for them. But not only them, for their families and carers. HCPT takes children on their own at Easter (families more in the Summer) and that can give the families a bit of respite as well as change the young carers who have the responsibility of looking after them. In the summer when families go I remember two single mothers who were raising very troubled children and being together with others gave them great support and a break, and a chance of a gin and tonic on the terrace, knowing that their children were being looked after and accepted, as were they. When I opened my breviary today Fr. David Elder’s card from his funeral fell out. It was always a privilege to travel to Lourdes with him and to see how he interacted with the young ones and the parents.

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