This Monday we celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Reading this article brought back to mind my own experience with Lourdes in 2002.
I was living in Austria during the Spring of 2002 for a study abroad semester. I had surgery in the summer of 2001, but had been warned that my condition was dormant, but could recur at any time. I was advised not to travel abroad, but decided to go anyways. During the month of April, I knew that everything was coming back and was starting to worry. Two of my friends decided that a trip to Lourdes was in order.
They looked into how long the trip would take and discerned that we would have to miss one day of classes to make it there and back before Monday classes. We left on a Wednesday afternoon to make the train trek. It was a crazy journey involving lots of bread and cheese to eat, the French National Rugby team, and lots of prayers. We were about 20 miles from Lourdes when I started to feel better.
It was incredible how I just sorta "picked up." We spent our visit at the Shrine, exploring the small avenues that lead to the Shrine, and visiting an American style grocery store to find chips and salsa. The whole time we were there, I felt fine!
We visited the baths on Friday in order to bathe in the waters of Lourdes. What a humbling experience! The three of us walked in together, but were split up upon entering. One friend was presumed Italian, one was presumed Polish, and I was presumed French. We were put into different rooms based on language:) Too funny, since none of us spoke those languages fluently.
In my room, we disrobed and then took turns getting into the baths. Defnitely humbling to be bare before these other women and the attendants. The waters were beyond frigid! Just so you know. When I entered the baths, the attendants helped me in due to the steep steps. When I turned to dip my face in the water, they were telling me not to. So I communicated that my illness was in my head. They let me cup the water and pour it over my face then. I was then escorted back out to dry off and get dressed. It was like I was dry before I even got to my clothes.
We had to leave Lourdes on Saturday to make it back to Austria before Monday classes. We had boarded the train, and again were about 20 miles outside of Lourdes when the pain came back. My friends said I turned white suddenly. It was a long journey back with much cheese and indigestion.
My friends were at first disappointed with the lack of sustained physical healing, but in light of the whole experience, I can say that that really didn't matter. What mattered was the spiritual consolation I received to carry that cross.
Upon returning the states, I had another CT Scan which confirmed the recurrence of the infection in my brain. I had a follow-up surgery that summer and another year and a half of a related illness. But God had planted seeds in my heart during that time at Lourdes. Through Our Lady, she brought me closer to Our Lord in my suffering. That was the real "miracle" of my trip to Lourdes.