To Lourdes they come

Members of the Order of Malta recently went on pilgrimage to one of the world’s most famous Marian shrines

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Members of Order of Malta proudly show the flag during their recent pilgrimage to the famed site of Mary’s apparition to St Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Photo: Courtesy the Order of Malta, Sydney
Members of Order of Malta proudly show the flag during their recent pilgrimage to the famed site of Mary’s apparition to St Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Photo: Courtesy the Order of Malta, Sydney

A group of Australian Catholics from the Order of Malta have been among the first pilgrims in the world to return to the Sanctuary of Lourdes in southwestern France which has been closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 11 Australians were part of a group of 3000 pilgrims from 31 countries who converged on Lourdes for the 64th International Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady in the first weekend of May.

One of the world’s most popular pilgrimage sites, many sick people have attributed the water near the Grotto of Massabielle with healing properties at the site where Our Lady first appeared to a 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

“Another highlight of the pilgrimage was a candle-lit Marian procession, attended by thousands, continuing a long tradition at Lourdes that dates back to the 1950s.”

Our Lady appeared on several occasions to St Bernadette where she revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, inviting prayer and penance, pilgrimage and devotion and offering healing to sick people ever since.

The pilgrims from the Order of Malta spent five days at Lourdes and came together for a Pontifical Mass, concelebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta, alongside the Prelate of the Order, Monsignor Jean Laffitte and 100 chaplains of the Order.

Another highlight of the pilgrimage was a candle-lit Marian procession, attended by thousands, continuing a long tradition at Lourdes that dates back to the 1950s.

The Order of Malta’s Australian President, the Hon. James Douglas, said the French pilgrimage site has long been of deep spiritual significance to members of the Order.

Members of Order of Malta volunteered to assist the ‘malades’ - the ill and infirm who visit Lourdes seeking physical respite and spiritual and physical healing. Photo: Courtesy the Order of Malta, Sydney
Members of Order of Malta volunteered to assist the ‘malades’ – the ill and infirm who visit Lourdes seeking physical respite and spiritual and physical healing. Photo: Courtesy the Order of Malta, Sydney

“A pilgrimage to Lourdes represents one of the most significant moments in the spiritual life of the Order’s members and volunteers”, Mr Douglas told The Catholic Weekly.

“Members are expected to attend the Order’s pilgrimage at least once, however many find the experience so enriching that they attend annually. It is with great joy that we were able to return this year”.

The Magistral Chaplain of the Order of Malta in Australia, Fr Paul Nulley, said the pilgrimage helped reinforce to him the international nature of the organisation.

“For Australians unable to visit Lourdes, the Order of Malta ‘brings Lourdes to Australia’ at their Lourdes Day Mass celebrations held annually in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.”

“I witnessed how Lourdes gives concrete expression to the Order’s spirituality. The pilgrimage was an opportunity for me to understand how I contribute to the overall mission of the Order. I met fellow chaplains from across the world and saw something of the catholicity and global reach of the Order”.

For Australians unable to visit Lourdes, the Order of Malta ‘brings Lourdes to Australia’ at their Lourdes Day Mass celebrations held annually in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Those who attend these special celebrations, including malades from Australia, receive a blessing for good health and a bottle of Lourdes’ water for their personal use.

Details of these Masses can be found at www.orderofmalta.org.au