Sunday, July 1, 2012

My France Pilgrimage... Photos pour vous!

My family and friends, and the podcast audience, know that I was recently on vacation and on pilgrimage in France, thanks to a fortunate intersection of timing, my husband's work in Paris, the official draft of the manuscript being done, and that wonderful perk known as frequent flyer miles. Of course we carry your intentions with us everywhere we prayer... and we were delighted to bear that burden of prayer.

Here is the man who made it all possible...
Yeah, Bob's a bit fried here, after a full week of work and then yours truly shows up when he is not-quite-done with all his work and she says "let's walk somewhere for dinner!"

But, great guy that he is, he willingly complied and he, already having French food for a week without me, asked for a pizza! Being a bit jet lagged and raggy myself, I didn't fight it, and we had some of the best pizza this side of Rome, so a simple meal and a short bottle of chianti for the win! Paris, like our New York roots, has some of the best varieties of food anywhere on the planet.

(Note the gray skies... we had a lot of rain as we traveled.)

The next day... the first pilgrimage stop: 140 Rue de Bac, and the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal. It's a cool website, so you should check it out. This is where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Labore and explained to Catherine that she'd like what we call "the Miraculous Medal" designed and struck. You remember what the Miraculous Medal is, right??
Nope, not that. That's St. Pat. Just checking to make sure you're awake.
That's right, you remember.

It's a simple place, this shrine, and here's the courtyard that leads to the street... you could almost miss this place in the midst of the bustle of Paris. And not surprisingly, many people do. We were fortunate to be there for the Feast of the Sacred Heart and to pray for all our intentions there.
If you know the story of this Marian apparition, you know that Our Lady very tenderly appeared to Catherine by sitting down in a chair in the convent chapel, and talked to Catherine as knelt at her side. It's depicted here below.

Here is the chair that Mary sat in next to the altar.
There's some great footage and details at the shrine website, so do check it out. The chair is roped off in front of a side altar next to the main altar, and I just love that Mary came and sat to have chats with Catherine. That statue is St. Vincent de Paul... he founded the religious order that Catherine was a part of. You may be interested to know that St. Vincent's heart is in that reliquary above the tabernacle... and the flames of the heart of love of Vincent is depicted behind his statue... he was so on fire with love of God and neighbor... kind of reminds me of the the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Requisite shout out to my fellow St. John's University alums, founded by the Vincentians.)

For you Paris tourists who love to shop, this shrine is right across the street from Le Bon Marche!  well, of course I had to go in and see what all the fuss was about! Here's my husband's eye for photograhy... pictured below... One of the first department stores in Paris... it's a relic from another age. Here's the center foyer.
A bit of lunch and we were off to Sainte-Chapelle. (A cool 4 minute video here can explain this so much better than I can.) But there is some of the most breath-taking stained glass in the world there... and a good portion is under construction for years to come. Our photos don't do it justice, but there's all kinds of cool stuff on the web on it. 
If you saw Catholicism with Fr. Robert Barron, you'll recognize this door below... now, if you didn't before, you're gonna want to watch that 4 minute video I suggested.

And for dessert? Prayer at Notre Dame Cathedral... coming up on its 850 year birthday. <-more details here. 

We've been here before, and the weather was threatening, so we just dashed inside out of the rain, and did not get many photos this visit. So I'll let Google images help here. I was happy to pray in the quiet, soak in the beauty of the Rose Windows with my binoculars, and light a candle is front of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux.

The next day we were off on a 6 hour train ride from Paris to...
This was my first glimpse of her when we arrived... she stands like a strong tower in the center plaza greeting everyone, and tons of flowers are at her feet from grateful pilgrims.

The highlight for me was the Grotto...

Notice the pilgrims who are moving in a silent queue to the area where the spring was that Bernadette dug for at the direction of Our Lady. And then the crowd parted for a bride and groom to pay their respect to Our Holy Mother.
If you listen to the latest Among Women podcast, I describe the different basilicas on the grounds of the sanctuary. This is the one built on the rock above the grotto... the first church on the site.
And below, here you can see the plaza area in front of the Grotto, but you can't see the Grotto for the trees on the left under the wall.

This is the view of the long piazza where the processions take place, below, and on the far hill, an old fortress... probably the only other "tourist" site in Lourdes.

 This is the cross atop the rosary basilica.. a crown for Mary... (more clouds on the way...)
And here is my attempt at saying something theological... but maybe it fails... think of the three spires of the cathedral as the trinity... and Mary's crown, and her joy, is that she has a relationship with each one... She is not a member of the trinity, or some kind of goddess... she is simply the closest human being in relationship to them. And that makes her spiritual motherhood of us so important! She helps us draw near to God!
So that's why I'm sticking with Mary....
The daily candle-light Rosary procession...Momma Mary walking with her children.
 Praying the rosary in French, Italian, Spanish, English, and German... and singing too!
 Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave, M-A-R-I-A!
Her image looked better in real life... the lighting freaked out the camera phone light sensor...
 Just praying with thousands of fellow believers. We walked to the rear to get the photos and to take some video. (That's me in my blue rain jacket at the lower left, with my candle.)
 The mosaics at Lourdes are some of the most wonderful I've ever seen. Here's an outdoor altar at night.
Of course, here's one of Mary's best friends... St Bernadette...
This painting below is the earliest known portrait of her as a young girl.
 Here's the underground basilica that holds 20-25K people!! This is the final benediction after the Eucharistic procession went outside all around the grounds. We estimate about 3 thousand in here.
 very modern... Bob thought it looked like a bunker... or something from a Soviet country before the Cold War ended.... it was built around 1958 for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions...

 So I'm asking myself: "If you wanted to keep 25K out of the snow and rain year-round, and you wanted to hide them in a mountain village in the Pyranees, what would you do?"
The underground basilica under that patch of grass on the right side of the pavement. If you didn't know it was there, you'd miss it!
We lit a candle for your intentions.
And we had a Mass said for the intentions too.
 Finally -- a sunny day on Sunday! And one more look at the gold leaf on the crown on the roof of the rosary basilica.

You might enjoy this live web cam, and website from Lourdes!


  1. Oh Pat! I THOROUGHLY enjoyed these photos and descriptions. You highlighted everything I would have wanted to see and know - just like a friend would do :)
    Isn't there something completely different and new and wonderful about seeing religious sites as opposed to "merely" historical or artistic or educational things and places? Our intimate knowledge of the saints and the miracles associated with them and how these devotions enrich our spiritual lives makes visiting these shrines and locales such a blessing, I thank you so much for sharing these with us and especially for praying for our intentions, You are a dear.

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  3. Pat, thanks so much for sharing! What a wonderful trip. Bob took awesome photos.


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