Saturday August 18, 2018

Trinidad: Undressed in Lourdes


CHIARA just passed by, and she said I had a very beautiful smile.

We are at Tarbes Lourdes Pyrenees Airport, in France, waiting for our flight back to Paris. It is delayed, but I don’t mind.

I was reminiscing about the past 20 hours and the heartwarming experiences we had.

We arrived in Lourdes, just before 8 p.m. yesterday. The sun was still shining, but weak. Sunset would come past 9 p.m. There was a drizzle, and it was very foggy. So like Baguio, on a rainy late afternoon.

After checking in and resting for a few minutes, we headed for the sacred grotto where our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette. There was a thunderstorm by then. You could see the reflection of the lightning on the pavement just before the thunder rumbled.

By the time we got to the grounds, the rain had petered out. A lady passed by us, probably noticed we looked lost, and asked us to if we wanted to follow her to the light procession which was going to be held in the underground Basilica.

When I stepped foot in the Basilica, it seemed like all my hairs stood on end! I had goose bumps all over, starting from my calves up to the top of my head. This is a signature Angel embrace, the longest I’ve ever felt, anywhere.

I knew right there and then, how powerful the energy in Lourdes was. Chiara, Adriel, Byren and Divya all felt the goosebumps too.

I felt a little guilty when they paraded the statue of our Lady and it passed right in front of me. I don’t attend masses regularly or pray the rosary devotedly. But when I lit my candle, I felt this overwhelming love and peace, and I wanted to bawl out right there and then.

Thankfully, someone told us to put out our candles first, and the moment passed.

Holding our candles, we walked around the Basilica praying the rosary in English and other languages. There were pictures of saints all over the place. I was heartened to see St. Hildegard of Bingen featured there. She is the saint who suggested the ruby cure for the eyes.

Later still, at 11 p.m., Aa and I attended the mass at the grotto. It was very cold, around 16 degrees.

When mass was over, Aa and I were able to touch the walls of the cave where our Lady appeared and touch our bracelets to the streaks of water seeping through the stone walls.

The next morning, the five of us headed for the baths. They are said to be miraculous and healing, not just for the body, but also the heart and the spirit.

By 8:30 a.m., Aa and Byren were able to enter the line for the males before they closed the gate. Chiara, Divya and I were about 5th in line from the gate for the women.

At 9:30 a.m., the gatekeepers said the numbers were full, and if we wanted, we were to come back later at 2 p.m. There were prioritizing the sick this morning, and they could only accommodate a certain number.

I tried to reason with the gatekeeper, but he just shrugged. He could not speak English.

I felt my heart sink. To travel so far, to come so close, to be at the gate, and not be let in. It flashed in my mind that this must be how the Israelites felt to get to the promised land, and they were not allowed to enter.

One of the female volunteers told us that if we stayed in line, we would be the first for the 2 p.m. slot. That meant a four and a half hour wait, plus a missed lunch. And a probable missed flight.

My heart was sinking. I sent a silent plea to our Lady to help us enter.

Beside me, Divya was griping that one of the gatekeepers allowed the two teenagers in front of us to enter. Just because they’re shorter, she said. I could feel her frustration.

And then, moments later, Divya’s mood shifted. She told me she was willing to wait. She started talking about the pets she wanted, and what she would name them.

I thought of Aa and Byren, and was grateful they were in line. I felt better knowing that at least, they would have the experience.

Chiara was at the other gate, gesturing with her hands to the main gatekeeper. Even at a distance, I knew she was mentioning the flight. I could also see that the guy was reluctant to let us in.

And then Chiara’s face brightened.

We were allowed to enter, going straight to the baths!

I was so happy.

In the room before the baths, there were about six women seated, blue cloth wrapped around each of them.

One of the volunteers me told to take off all my clothes, while she held the long blue cloth to shield me from sight from the others. It was okay, undressing there, I still had with privacy. A short wait later, I was led into a small pool.

There were other volunteers who assisted me there. They covered with me with a white cloth this time, and told me to take one step down first.

The water was so icy!

They asked me if I wanted to pray, which I did, and when I was ready, to make the sign of the cross and go into the pool.

I didn’t mind the cold, cold water. All I could think of, during this time, all I could feel, was love and gratitude. It surrounded me, and I felt bathed in it.

The dip in the pool took just a few minutes.

These are minutes I will remember always. The feeling of being listened to, and being answered... the feeling of being loved.

It is a very beautiful feeling. I smile.