Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto

A Catholic Lawyer’s Journey to Lourdes by Michael J. Henry

Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild is delighted to share an article written by one of our esteemed board members, Mr. Michael J. Henry. This article offers valuable insights into a spiritual journey in the south of France and highlights the significance of dedicating time to renew our faith in God and embracing spirituality in our daily lives.

A Catholic Lawyer’s Journey to Lourdes by Michael J. Henry

As a lawyer, my life often revolves around the pressures and intricacies of the legal world.  However, as a Catholic lawyer, there are moments when I seek solace and spiritual rejuvenation from my Faith.  This Faith recently led me and my wife to visit Lourdes in the south of France.  Please join me as I share my experiences and insights into this sacred destination.

Lourdes is a place of profound significance for Catholics worldwide.  Nestled in the Pyrenees mountains, this small town gained fame due to a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.  Since then, it has become a place of pilgrimage for millions of visitors, Catholic and non-Catholic, each year.

We arrived in Lourdes by air from Paris late in the afternoon after a short flight (actually the airport is in Tarbes, a short taxi ride to town).  We immediately began our journey at the Grotto of Massabielle, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette.  Pilgrims from all over the world gather here to seek healing and solace.  We joined the line to walk along the face of the Grotto and touch the Holy Water running down its face.  We were amazed at the small overhead alcove, with the illuminated Virgin Mary statue within, where she appeared to Bernadette.  I was immediately struck with a sense of awe.

The next morning, we attended Sunday Mass in the immense underground Church.  During the Mass I felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself and spirituality emanated from the over 10,000 plus congregants as an International Mass was held.  Receiving the Host in such a pious atmosphere was overwhelming.

Next, we attended for a Water Gesture.  Since covid, visitors are no longer immersed in a Holy Water bath.  Rather, a Nun accompanies you in prayer while you wash your hands and face with Holy Water, and then you drink it.  A real feeling of calm came over my wife and I as we performed this ritual.

We then crossed the small river and lit candles, praying for those in need of prayers: the sick, addicted, lost and elderly in our family.  In this peaceful setting, one can’t help but feel that your prayers are being heard.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the huge property known as the Sanctuary.  The Main Church is the impressive Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  Below is the Crypt where we received a Blessing.  We did not get to visit the Basilica of the Rosary (one good reason to return to Lourdes), but viewing the whole Sanctuary from the top of the Basilica steps and the multitude of pilgrims was a moving experience and a reminder of the power of collective Faith.

We also visited the Bernadette Museum, which tells the story of Bernadette, her life and the Apparitions.  The Museum of the Miracles was very enlightening, since a main focus of Lourdes is its healing powers.  Despite my having thought thousands have been cured there, only 70 cures have been accredited as Miracles, the last in 2018.  We did not go to Confession, as we missed the English option for that day.  So keep in mind that, if you attend Lourdes, you should check the daily schedule and plan your pilgrimage ahead of time.

We then left the Sanctuary and walked into Town (literally a minute away) to visit Bernadette’s birthplace and home.  There was a small fee, but worth it to see how she lived.  One really gets a feeling of piety there in those plain and barren surroundings that she grew up in.

We next returned to our hotel for a rest before the highlight of the visit, the Candlelight Procession.  While resting at a cafe, we watched as hundreds of wheelchairs were pushed by volunteers through town to the Sanctuary for blessings and healing.  This is a place where Faith and Miracles converge.  It was a reminder of how blessed I am to be happily married, with a loving family and children.  We said a grateful prayer to God over a cappuccino for our good fortune.  Thanks be to God.

The evenings in Lourdes are marked by the Candlelight Procession.  Thousands lined up, lit candles and walked slowly around the Sanctuary singing hymns and reciting the Rosary.  It was an uplifting experience that reinforced my Faith in humanity and the love of God.  Our evening was topped off by an unannounced, free concert by Andrea Bocelli.

My visit to Lourdes was not just a time for reflection, it was also a time of renewal and a reminder of my Faith in God and the importance of spirituality in my daily life.  My visit also reinforced in me how being a practicing Catholic allows me to be part of a greater community.  Whether you are deeply religious, or feeling spiritually lost, a visit to Lourdes will touch your soul.  As a Catholic lawyer, the visit reminded me that I should never lose sight of my spiritual well-being, as it is the compass that guides me in being a lawyer to help people in their times of trouble.


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