Living Lourdes from home

By Simon Hart

Instead of a mass Liverpool exodus to Lourdes this summer, the ‘Lourdes at Home’ initiative brought the spirit of the annual pilgrimage to our Archdiocese.

For the first time since 1946, there was no Liverpool Archdiocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage this year. The postponement of the 90th pilgrimage to Lourdes from Liverpool had long been confirmed – a decision taken in early April owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This meant a week without some of the joys and blessings of being in Lourdes yet the spirit of the pilgrimage remained present for many in the diocese thanks to the ‘Lourdes at Home’ initiative – a virtual pilgrimage running from 24 July to 1 August which included a daily Mass, streamed on Facebook and parish websites, and the familiar spread of services.

Despite the distance from the French Pyrenees, there was even a small torchlight procession, staged by Father Grant Maddock in the garden at his parish of Our Lady’s, Lydiate.

This virtual pilgrimage began with a Youth Opening Mass at 6pm on Friday 24th, which was pre-recorded at Lowe House and available to view on Animate Youth’s YouTube channel. It included a video message from Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, who said the following to the diocesan youth: ‘I’m sorry that we’re not together but we are actually together in spirit this week as we have so many events going on both for the young people, for yourselves, and for the diocese as a whole that we will really be together in the Lord and ultimately that is what matters aIso.

‘I hope you have a very happy pilgrimage at home and that you will have an enjoyable summer and that when you get back to normal life eventually perhaps at the end of the year we can then all start working towards and looking forward to our pilgrimage next year.’

In a poignant touch, there was also a post-Communion tribute to Aileen Jones, who was head of Coach 2 and leader of the Youth Pilgrimage Music Group in Lourdes for many years prior to her death on 26 March at the age of 52.

The Opening Mass of the pilgrimage followed the next day, Saturday 25th, celebrated by Father Des Seddon at St Mary’s, Aughton. This was open to the public and also streamed live on the ‘Liverpool Lourdes at Home, 2020’ Facebook page. The Reconciliation Service later that day was also open to the public.

Fr Des, who is the pilgrimage director, said: ‘We just want to give people an understanding of the importance of Lourdes to the life of the Archdiocese. I know the Archbishop says he can see more people in a week in Lourdes than in a whole year going around the parishes.’

As well as daily Mass, other activities included exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, evening rosary and stations of the cross. On Thursday 30th the traditional Mass of Healing – always a highlight of the pilgrimage – was followed by a rosary service and the aforementioned torchlight procession.

For the 500 youth pilgrims, there were separate activities organised for each of the nine coach groups, including morning and night prayer each day – some pre-recorded, others live via Zoom. And, to reflect the social side of the pilgrimage, there were quizzes and fancy dress nights as well as a ‘Songs from the Lourdes bars’ event – a socially distanced singalong from Lowe House, the base of Animate Youth Ministries – which went out on YouTube on Wednesday 29th.

For the Liverpool Youth, their pilgrimage ended on Saturday 1 August with a Closing Liturgy service, followed by the last of several challenges put to them during the week. There may have been no final-night descent to the Grotto to savour that lovely hush and say a prayer amid the flicker of candlelight but instead the young people were asked to light “virtual candles for our loved ones” – to find a picture of a candle and send it to people to “tell them you are praying for them”. A Lourdes sentiment, sent from home.

It was in 1923 that the first official Archdiocesan pilgrimage took place and aside from a hiatus owing to the Second World War, it has been a much-loved week of the year for so many Catholics across the diocese.

The full Mass programme for Lourdes from Home was as follows:

Friday 25 July:
Youth Opening Mass at Lowe House – Fr Simon Gore (YouTube/Animate)
Saturday 25 July:
Opening Mass at St Mary’s, Aughton – Fr Des Seddon (Facebook)
Sunday 26 July:
Sunday Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral – Bishop Tom Williams (Facebook & YouTube/Metropolitan Cathedral)
Monday 27 July:
Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes at Holy Rosary, Aintree – Monsignor John Butchard (mcnmedia.tv)
Tuesday 28 July:
Mass of St Bernadette at Our Lady’s, Lydiate – Archbishop Malcolm McMahon (Facebook)
Wednesday 29 July:
Mass of the Year “I am the Immaculate Conception” at Our Lady’s Portico – Fr Joe Kendal (mcnmedia.tv)
Thursday 30 July:
Mass of Healing at Our Lady’s, Lydiate – Fr Grant Maddock (Facebook)
Friday 31 July:
Mass of Thanksgiving at St Chad’s, Chorley – Fr Mark Beattie (Facebook)

• To revisit the Facebook Masses, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Liverpool-Lourdes-at-Home-2020.
• For the Masses streamed by MCN Media, visit mcnmedia.tv and type Liverpool to search for the relevant parish from our Archdiocese.