Ellen Shearon’s ‘Reflection of an Adult Helper on the Lourdes Pilgrimage’
I had no idea what I was signing up to when Fr John (and God) of course, put the idea of going to Lourdes as a helper (handmaid), into my heart and head. I am a sports massage practitioner and offered my skills in this area and was requested to be based permanently in one of the hospitals (Accueil) out there during my stay, concentrating on working with the sick or AP's (Assisted Pilgrims) as well as nurses, doctors and handmaids and brancardiers.
I can honestly say that Lourdes changed me - not in any great obvious overwhelming way- but in subtle, good ways. My friends have commented on how I seem calmer, less critical and more caring and thoughtful about others. I'm not so sure about that but I do know that I am more grateful for what I have, for my family and friends, my health and my life. I massaged and treated men, women and children, some of whom were very sick, disabled and in a lot of pain. Not once did one of them complain - even during the masses held there was silence and very few interruptions. I escorted three lovely older ladies out to Lourdes on a special chartered flight from Stansted - an experience that humbled and challenged me. One of my ladies is a double amputee and as well as her I helped board 16 wheelchair users onto the flight out - it was exhausting and stressful and took over one and a half hours. I will never, ever complain about my legs or feet hurting - at least I have some.
Lourdes is a beautiful place. A place of love, faith and the Virgin Mary. Here are some extracts from my diary whilst there:
" - A day of M's - Mass, massages, Hail Mary's, Magnificats and moonlit processions. Mass at The Grotto this morning. It's amazing how quiet everyone is, even the children who are in a lot of pain. Getting some fantastic results massaging people who have never had massages before and because of their illnesses and disabilities have almost been given up on. A man who has not been able to clench his fist and a woman who could not lift her arm up get very positive results with treatment- not miracles - just love and care, and the love I get back is overwhelming. It's very draining but very rewarding. Also went up to the mountains - beautiful. It also answered the question: Why did Our Lady choose Lourdes and not Croydon or Fareham or Gosport to appear?!"
I have already booked my flight to France - I am drawn back. I hope you will choose to go- it won't change your life but may make you look at it a bit differently.