Europe Day 7: Communion, Connection, & the Massabielle Grotto
Sunday, October 1
I'm convinced that if I were dropped in the middle of this countryside--with no preconceived notion of where I was or how I got there--I would still recognize the energy of France.
This country has my heart. I can feel the call of the earth here unlike anywhere else. It's an ancient song that rings out through the lifetimes--across the mountains and through the valleys... Indeed, I couldn't stop looking at the mountains in the distance, like my heart was connected to them. It's like I'm walking on land sacred to myself--past and present and future, it's a path I've walked lifetimes before, a path I'm walking now, and a path I'll walk again. The energy is so familiar even if the landmarks aren't.
My soul recognizes that I'm home.
We started our day going to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception--the grand Basilica in Lourdes known as the upper church that's housed within the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. The infamous Massabielle Grotto--a shrine to the Mother Mary and the healing waters of Lourdes--is also within this park.
The history of Lourdes is fascinating and something I didn't know before we arrived, having done little research as I wanted to come with an open mind and heart. In 1858, a fourteen year old peasant named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen the apparition of Mother Mary along the banks of the river as she was collecting firewood. She would later claim to see this same apparition a total of 18 times and receive instruction to build a church.
Lourdes also has a long history prior to its reputation as a sacred site, including a fortress that rises high above the town that dates to before Charlemagne and which we would later explore. However, the call of Mother Mary is now what Lourdes is best known for.
We explored the basilica and its grounds before going inside the church where, due to it being Sunday, mass was being prepared. I sat in one of the wooden pews and watched people filter in--some walking through to admire the church and others kneeling in prayer.
So many prayers...
I felt my heart squeeze again as tears began to roll down my face--I couldn't stop them, couldn't prevent the sob that was rising. I was overwhelmed by the pain and suffering people endure in life and all the prayers spoken in the secret caverns of the heart.
I stepped outside and sat in a bit of shade on the stone steps, calming my aching heart and letting myself feel whatever I needed to feel in that moment. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but the sanctuary wasn't as crowded as we'd seen it previously, and as I looked out over the landscape, I noticed a procession along the avenue. Nuns were accompanying visitors in wheelchairs, rounding the corner to the Grotto. My heart felt overwhelmed again, and I couldn't stop the sob rising within me.
The pain, the suffering...
Then I felt a warm energy surrounding me and heard God say, "This is what they're here for. The hope. The faith."
I didn't come to Lourdes for the healing--at least, not that I was consciously aware of. Though my experience with chronic Lyme disease certainly crossed my mind, this wasn't what I was called here for and I knew it (though a psychic friend of mine from home would later confirm that I did, in fact, receive a healing here). All along my journey, I've understood that healing comes from within, and here were people with wheelchairs and canes and personal afflictions seeking healing and comfort. Maybe I was witnessing the seed being planted, like it was planted within me all those years ago when I was struggling and suffering from illness, when I, too, couldn't walk, when I was in such decline I didn't know if I would make it through another night. Maybe it's the hope and the faith of this place that makes a dimming light burn brighter. Maybe it's the belief in this external environment that transforms everything within.
Because what I was witnessing was faith, and at the core--when dogma and doctrine is stripped away--that soul truth, that personal faith, is what remains.
I don't know. I don't know yet why I was drawn here. This experience has been beautiful and emotional, but I don't understand it yet.
Tomorrow, I'll be spending some time by the banks of the river in meditation. Maybe I'll understand it then...
The Massabielle Grotto & Torchlight Procession
We didn't intend on participating at the Massabielle Grotto. When we first began to explore the outer grounds, the lines were long and the crowds were thick, and we looked at each other and agreed that we didn't think it was something either of us needed. But angels have been guiding us all along this journey, and they were guiding us still. When we next approached, the line was only ten people deep and the crowd had thinned out.
The Grotto wasn't what I had pictured it to be. It's a little alcove built into the rock (Massabielle meaning "ancient rock") with a statue of Mother Mary overhead and lit prayer candles in front, a place for people to sit and kneel in continued prayer on its outskirts. Walking in a semi-circle from left to right, I ran my hands over the smooth rock, noticing the roses left as offering and a spring itself split into three small waterfalls and running into the ground--encased in glass so as not to be disturbed. On the far side, one can feel the small trickle of water, and I ran my hands over the wet stone, and I felt it. I felt it in my heart chakra--an energy, a current. Something I can't explain. I turned to Luna and, sure enough, she felt it, too.
Nearby are spigots from the spring with which people can be seen filling bottles or jugs of the holy water and where we also filled our bottles. We would go back three times to the Grotto during our time in Lourdes, as each time we passed, the line was either non-existant or only a few people deep. Once, I felt tingling in my third eye. Another time, I felt a wave of peace and love rush through me. My friend also had her own personal experiences with it...
We also spent three nights with the Torchlight Procession. The first, we happened upon it by accident and acted as witnesses, watching from the sidelines. The next, we bought candles from a nearby souvenir shop and walked with the procession (which included a hilarious incident of the paper wind protector catching on fire and us trying to blow it out, which resulted in a fit of giggles--I feel as if that laughter only added to the experience, as it's not meant to be a somber occasion). The final night, we decided to get new candles with plastic coverings and watch from the ramps/bridge of the basilica. I remarked how interesting it was that I had chosen blue and she had chosen pink. Seems the twin flame energy was with us, still...
On the bridge, Luna and I were the only ones with lit candles. As the procession began, however, people approached us for the flame, and we were all too happy to assist as others had assisted us. At one point, Luna turned to me, realization dawning on her face. "We're lightworkers spreading the light," she said, pointing out the symbolism of what we were doing. I looked across the bridge, then down below at the hundreds of candles that were moving in procession, thinking of the ripple effect of love, of light. It's something I've always been conscious of, but here it was in physical manifestation.
The wonder of Lourdes was still revealing itself...