TO BE A PILGRIM!
Wednesday, April 13th.
The last farewells were over, and as the battered Spitfire engine began to pull away from the station we began to think of the journey ahead. As we passed by banks of primroses on either side of the train, a few of us began to look at books about Lourdes. In no time at all we had passed through Winchester and were nearing London.
Baggage was hastily gathered as we rushed to tidy ourselves and prepared to leave the train. We piled into taxis to get to the house where we were to leave our cases. From there we proceeded to Westminster Cathedral for Benediction. We again rushed away for high tea at the Chicken Inn and to collect our baggage.
We then went by taxi to the station where we were to board the boat-train to Dover. As we neared Dover His Lordship Bishop Grant came and spoke to us.
Our crossing on the boat was rough and the majority were seasick. We were comforted, however, by the thought that we were now really on our way.
Thursday, April 14th.
The s.s. Invicta had docked and we all disembarked. Nods and smiles greeted us as a tall French Customs Officer counted us and waved us on to the train waiting to take us to Lourdes. Just as we had settled down for the night on the firmly sprung, leatherclad seats, Petula Clark's music began to come out of the amplifier outside our compartment.
As soon as the eight bleary-eyed persons in our compartment had resigned themselves to a long, long night the music abruptly stopped, and a few minutes later the train began to glide out of the station and we were speeding through France.
Few of us slept that night and we swapped ghost and detective stories until dawn. At Juvisy we stopped to take on restaurant cars and speed across richly-cultivated countryside. The fields were large and irregular in shape, dotted with trees, bushes, and tall, narrow, flint farm buildings.
After an excellent breakfast we played cards and read books, stopping every few hours to say the rosary. We sped on through Les Aubrais, Blois, Tours and many other places of interest, seeing some of the beautiful chateau country.
We soon reached Pau and followed the river Gave into the station at Lourdes, catching a glimpse of the Grotto through the trees. Boarding a bus, we arrived at the Hotel St. Lazare, stopping only to leave our cases before we attended Mass at the Chapelle de Notre Dame. After dinner we went to our rooms and slept soundly.
Friday, April 15th.
We rose early and strolled downstairs to the foyer, where we posted cards and letter before breakfast. Breakfast over, we looked at our timetable for the day. We gathered mantillas and manuals and walked to the Grotto for Mass and the Opening Ceremony after which we all helped to push the sick members of the Pilgrimage to their hospitals.
After lunch many of us took a walk with Sister Bernadette to the beautiful psuedo-Gothic Rosary Basilica. We visited Pope John's Crypt, which was approached by a corridor consisting of small, brown marble tablets each with an inscription to St. Bernadette.
We then passed through the Basilica. Gilt abounded and the nineteen stained-glass windows depicting the history of Mary, including the fifteen side-chapels are all that I can remember of this magnificent building. After this we visited the Pius X Basilica. This is an underground chapel which can hold 20,000 pilgrims.
We saw the tomb-to-be of Pope John XXIII
where the Blessed Sacrament is always exposed. We then joined in the Blessed Sacrament Procession. As we were wheeling the invalid-chairs to the hospital, it began to rain. We hurried back to the hotel and did not go to the Torchlight Procession.