800 Westminster Pilgrims Welcomed in Lourdes


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LOURDES, France, JULY 27, 2009 ( The archbishop of Westminster welcomed today to Lourdes more than 800 faithful from his diocese.

This is the first time Archbishop Vincent Nichols is leading the diocese's Lourdes pilgrimage, having been installed in May of this year. At the opening Mass today, he prayed that the week would be dedicated to God and Our Lady's intercession.

"We have come to meet the Lord, but over the course of the week, you will find that the Lord will come to you," the archbishop said during the homily. "Each time we go out, from our hotel room, from the churches, from the Grotto, we can know that God is coming to meet us. It may be in the smile of another person, in the gentleness of a person that we didn't expect, in the stories that we hear. God will be there in the kindness that we receive when we are upset or tired.

"It isn't always obvious how God comes to us, but that is our task for this pilgrimage; to sense and be ready to respond to the Lord when he comes to us."

The archbishop said that the young shepherd girl who saw Our Lady in Lourdes teaches a lesson of readiness. "That is what happened to Bernadette," he said. "She was going to collect firewood, but at the prompting of Mary came to a life of great closeness to the Lord. We too can learn from Mary to be attentive, to listen to the prompting of the Lord.

"A pilgrimage is like life in miniature. What happens on a pilgrimage teaches us about our lives; The gifts that we receive here we try and put into practice elsewhere in our lives. So a pilgrimage is a workshop for life, for it is here that we renew our faith."

The Westminster pilgrimage groups includes 230 youth volunteers from schools and colleges; 30 priests and two permanent deacons; 130 ill pilgrims; and 64 pilgrims from a center that supports people with learning disabilities.

The pilgrims return home July 31.