Sunday, 10 August 2008

Lourdes - On the Inside

I have come home from Lourdes. For all the spiritual and emotional turmoil of that place, the hardest part of the experience is the journey home. I have to steel myself up to it. Thinking about the events of the last week I do not want to write about what I saw, not much anyway. It is possible to find out about the sights and sounds of Lourdes, the process of the baths, the processions and the prayers in many places. I would not be able to do them justice here. If writing is a source of prayer, and for me it often is, then I want to try and write honestly about what I felt during the pilgrimage. It might not be possible to do justice to this theme but, before I leave this last week behind and move headlong into the future, I would like to give it a try.

Reading over my diary it would be fair to say that I arrived in Lourdes completely conscious of my need for conversion and confession. It was on my mind. Turning back to God is a gradual process. At the end of a very busy term, and in a panicked rush about my academic work I had crawled into a whirlwind of self obsession, pride and arrogance. When my reaction to not receiving funding from the AHRC for my DPhil was less disappointment than 'more fool them', I knew I had been placing too much emphasis on my own plans in life. I had barely considered if studying full time again was part of God's plan for me. It was definitely time to realign my priorities.

In the first two days of the pilgrimage I could hardly walk along the street without my mind being invaded by the story of the woman with the haemorrage. It did not come from the readings, which were focused on the torments of the prophet Jeremiah. Perhaps it was the crushing crowds and the talk of healing. Whatever the source I could not shake it and so began to pray with it. All that woman wanted was to touch His cloak. She had the faith, but she did not want the attention. She would have done anything not to have been noticed by other people. She did not want to be looked at, especially not by Jesus. Part of being in Lourdes is about taking the time to stop hiding from yourself. There is a call there to pay attention; attention to who you are, and attention to the eyes of God looking upon you. I am sure this is not meant to be frightening, but if you have not done it for a while it can be a bit of a shock. The most vivid experience of this nature happened during a solitary mission to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and I will come back to that later. I would like to explore things in order.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey you, this is really wonderful so far. I cannot wait to read the next installments.