On Monday 19th July, a group of some 100, led by Bishop Vincent Logan and under the directorship of Fr. Brian McLean, left on pilgrimage for Lourdes. The group included twenty-one sick pilgrims in the care of Drs. Sue McAllion, John Wilson and Ben Colvin and a group of eight nurses led by Mrs. Angela Norman. The main pilgrimage group were joined in Lourdes by a group of young and not- so- young helpers who travelled overland led by Fr. Neil Gallagher. This was quite a cosmopolitan party and indeed could just about claim to be a National Pilgrimage with the Dioceses of Argyll and the Isles, Glasgow, Motherwell and St. Andrews and Edinburgh being represented! The helpers were joined in Lourdes by the youth of the Diocese of Aberdeen led by Fr. Eddie Traynor. This came about largely due to a number of seminarians from Scotus College, including the newly-ordained Fr. John Mulholland from Glasgow, joining the party.
There were also bus groups from the Dundee parishes of St. Francis and Ss. Peter and Paul who joined with the main pilgrimage. The St. Francis group spent as much, if not more, time at sea as they did on the bus with a thirty- six hour cruise from Portsmouth to Bilbao in Northern Spain. The Ss. Peter and Paul’s party made stops at the shrines of Nevers, where St. Bernadette spent her religious life and where her body lies miraculously preserved, and Rocamadour.
Bishop Vincent welcomed all the pilgrims at the opening Mass which took place, as usual, at the Autel Esplanade beside the steps leading to the main basilica. He introduced the theme of the pilgrimage which, in the ‘Year of the Father’ the final year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, was ‘Going to the Father’. The opening Mass focused on the Father Who welcomes, consoles and cares for His people. This was developed at the Masses throughout the week which took the pilgrimage to the St. Pius X Basilica which is underground; the parish church at Bartrès where St. Bernadette grew up; the Grotto and St. Joseph’s Chapel, a semi-underground chapel in the Domaine noted for its wonderful acoustics.
In the course of the week’s liturgical celebrations pilgrims heard of the One Father of us all in one Faith and one Baptism; a Father Who forgives; a Father of the poor; an Almighty Father Who nourishes and from Whom all fatherhood stems and, not least, the Father Who makes us all brothers and sisters. At the end of the week one was very much aware of the great love the Father showers on us, His children, the affection with which He looks on us and the compassion He has for each and every one of us. It was clear also that this love, which comes down to us from the Father is not to stop with us but that we must allow ourselves to be filled with that love and spread it wherever we go. Where better to start than Lourdes where there are so many dependent and needing love and care?
As well as Mass, the pilgrims participated in other celebrations both liturgical and social. They took part in the Blessed Sacrament Procession, the Torchlight Procession (at which the Rosary is prayed), Stations of the Cross and a Penitential Service. Some also took the opportunity to go the baths. In the middle of the week there was a party in the hospital where the able-bodied joined the sick for singing, dancing and a light refreshment!
One of the highlights of the week was on the Saturday when, on a blistering hot afternoon, the Diocese of Dunkeld was given the honour of being asked to lead the Blessed Sacrament Procession. The youngsters from the Aberdeen group were called on to assist in carrying out the various functions this entailed. There are various banners to be carried, a protective awning has to borne over the Bishop carrying the Monstrance and deacons and acolytes are required to attend the Bishop. Since Dunkeld was leading, Bishop Vincent had the honour of carrying the Blessed Sacrament and performing the Blessing of the Sick at the end of the procession.
The most important participants in the pilgrimage to Lourdes are the sick and it is their needs which are paramount. A good measure of how successful the pilgrimage has been is how content the sick are. As they left for home on Monday 25th July, the sick of Dunkeld were each able to say that they were pleased with their week.