News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
- A LOOK BACK AT OUR COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE
By Father Simon Gore
A year or so ago, I wrote here about a (very) mini youth pilgrimage to Lourdes. We prayed then that we would be able to return the following year for a more normal pilgrimage. Well, those prayers must not have been as powerful as hoped for as, once again, only a very small youth pilgrimage presence was in Lourdes this year – even if we can point to a year-on-year increase of 25% (up from four to five)!
Yes, with the diocesan pilgrimage cancelled once more, a few of us made a journey to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin. After a slightly fraught week of preparation – getting all the passes and tests booked and downloading various apps which we thought we might need – the week itself in Lourdes was fairly relaxed. We had to show our vaccination status in pretty much each place we went, but this was easily done: your phone being scanned while you ordered your coffee, for example.
There was also the tense wait as we had a video call with somebody back at home to have our re-entry tests verified. Prodding a swab into your mouth and nose while a young woman sits watching you from her bedroom then making polite conversation as the test results come in is surely one of the more bizarre turns of the last 12 months!
Lourdes itself is much unchanged. We were pleased to see our youth pilgrimage hotels all open. Hopefully they will have got through the worst of it now and will be there to welcome us back next year. The town itself was fairly busy in the day, with the shops open and most of the cafes too. There was the usual hustle and bustle. The domain had a requirement that you wear a mask as soon as you walk through the gates – even when outside, which seemed a little odd after leaving that behind us over here. And the processions were less processional – I feel that the torchlight loses something when it is static on Rosary Square.
Still, we lit our candles opposite the grotto and said our prayers at the Crowned Virgin for a return next year, and this time made them a bit more explicit that the prayer was for a larger-scale return and not just this mini version!
There was a difference between the pilgrimage last year and this, however. Last year we did not really have much happen in person for the youth pilgrimage during Lourdes week as we were still coming out of restrictions and it was difficult to judge the mood regarding meeting others. This year, when the decision was made to not travel to Lourdes, we made a conscious effort to do more and so we staged a parallel youth pilgrimage at home, alongside the main pilgrimage week.
I must confess to not being sure what the week would be like. It is all very well having ideas and planning events, but who will turn up when we have lost much of our regular contact with would-be pilgrims? However, I have got to say it was a really good week. On Day 1 – a day of social action spent picking litter – I was expecting numbers to be low enough to be able to take those who’d turned up for brunch. Instead I had to do an emergency sandwich run that must have delighted the local shops, and this set the scene for the week.
As well as that ‘Faith in Action’ day, we had a retreat day in Formby, a trip to Alton Towers, a social night, and a festival day with Mass to end the week. Hopefully, it was a reminder to the young people who came of what the pilgrimage week is about. Let’s pray now that my prayers at the grotto will have been successful and this time next year I can report on a full week in Lourdes for all, and not another very mini pilgrimage to the shrine!