It worries me that some people can be so credulous as to think that making a visit to a town in the south of France on Planet Earth, circling an undistinguished star on a remote arm of the Milky Way galaxy, will somehow bring them closer to the creator of the universe.
And it worries me to find myself scoffing at something which is apparently at the core of some people’s lives.
In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a young girl from a poor family, experienced a series of visions in the Grotto of Massabieille. A beautiful lady appeared to her eighteen times, promising her happiness ‘not in this life but in the next’, and counselling her to ‘pray for sinners’. These may not sound like original, earth-shattering revelations, but nevertheless many soon believed that Bernadette had a direct line to the Almighty.
A spring appeared in the grotto and thousands claim to have been cured of their ailments by its waters. In 2015, believers, penitents and their assistants still troop towards Lourdes to share a little St Bernadette magic.
While there is no charge for the water, the same can’t be said for the beautiful-lady-shaped bottles that are on sale in the numerous souvenir shops that have sprung up all over the town. You can also order holy water online in an attractive container from the Catholic Gift Shop. From $15.99. And you thought Perrier water was overpriced. Holy music plays on the website. Christ overthrowing the tables of the money-changers in the temple comes to mind.
If making a pilgrimage to Lourdes brings some people peace and inner happiness, I’m fine with that. If ailments are alleviated, it doesn’t matter if it’s due to divine intervention or a placebo effect.
But I do hate seeing false hope offered to the simple, the vulnerable and the desperate by charlatans and people profiting from peddling nonsense. There must be many who leave Lourdes a little disappointed, though they may not admit it to family and friends who have gone to the trouble and expense of getting them there.
I took a few photos of the church, with its surprisingly contemporary artwork…
Then we sprinkled a little holy water on any parts of our bodies that were giving us trouble. No miraculous cures this time. You have to truly believe for it to work.
Mevrouw T bought a very reasonably priced snow dome of St Bernadette. ‘No, it’s not for me, it’s for a friend.’