Maltese Association Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2016
The Maltese Association of The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (MASMOM) embarked on its annual pilgrimage to Lourdes on Thursday, the 29th April offering the 68 Our Lords the Sick, the opportunity to go on a spiritual journey to the Marian Shrine of Lourdes. The mission of the Sorelle and Barrellieri is to devote their time to the Sick attending to both their spiritual and physical needs. As the Grandmaster so aptly put it in his address of welcome to all first time volunteers, “we have come to Lourdes to help our beloved Malades and to make our pilgrimage with them. The real reason for which we are here is the call of Our Lady and the hope of the Sick which is also our hope.” These are poignant words which are foremost in the minds of the Sorelle and Barrellieri when on duty.
Around 90 pilgrims, as well as accompanying relatives and 68 Our Lords the Sick formed part of the entourage which left Malta and witnessed, on this recent international pilgrimage, 7,000 members of the Order and volunteers in Lourdes, the town at the foot of the Pyrenees, tending to the 1500 ‘Malades’ with dedication and attention. All Knights and Dames, hailing from 44 countries spread from the five continents, were connected in kindred spirit during this momentous occasion in their defence of the faith, their fidelity to the truth and love of Christ and assistance of the Poor. It was a moving experience for those pilgrims from Albania, Kenya, Senegal, Palestine, Syria and Iraq who felt united with those who had come to Lourdes a number of times.
We had the honour to have the Grandmaster, Fra’ Matthew Festing on this 58th International Pilgrimage who led all Knights, Dames and volunteers to pay tribute to the Year of Mercy in this Jubilee year. The Order’s volunteers carried out the rite of passage by walking through Saint Michel’s gate to the Sanctuary and gathered in the underground Basilica of St Pius X for the Eucharist procession.
The International Mass held on the Sunday in the underground Basilica was celebrated by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Cardinalis Patronus, who drew on readings of the Mass and urged all members of the Order to reflect on the strong guiding spirit of the Association which determines all actions. “Only then” said Cardinal Burke, “would we be able to bring to the Poor and to the Sick the love of Christ that always heals and strengthens the suffering”.
This year, the Maltese Association was also tasked with organising a party for all Personnel working and caring for Our Lords the Sick in Lourdes. Maltese cuisine was savoured by the different nationalities that travelled under the auspices of the Order. Food was brought from Malta in refrigerated containers and Maltese wine was served. Approximately 1000 guests tasted Maltese hospitality and were each presented with a book token which showcased Malta’s historical and cultural beauty – the home of the Knights of St John who occupied the island from 1530 until 1798 and left their legacy making the current international organisations possible.
On the final evening before returning to Malta on the 4th May, the Maltese Association participated in the spectacular flambeaux which left all members of the group feeling spiritually enriched.
The Experience in Lourdes
Here are a few comments from the local pilgrims and guests to the Marian shrine:
The members are very helpful and as long as I live I will never forget these days. The ladies who slept in the same ward as me, said that they really enjoyed themselves. They haven’t stopped talking about the members of the Order and have said that if they have the opportunity to come again they will do so. They said that in the wards the sorelle were helpful with all the patients and their smiles made everybody smile.
We will pray for you so God will give you strength to continue with your mission.
Thank you very much.
Carmen Ellul, Annie Xerri, Katie Spiteri, Mary Vella, Agnes Debono, Joyce Bugelli
Joanna La Rosa, Daniella Abela
A Big Thank you!
Room 156 (The naughty girls): Eleonora Bonello, Rita Falzon, Marthese Zarb, Rose Marie Theuma, Rita Mangion, Yvonne Attard
During Mass at the Grotto, two sick children received their First Holy Communion and later the sick children forming part of the group from Malta were presented to our Lady of Lourdes, which was a very moving and emotional ceremony.
The international Mass at the Basilica of St. Pius X was overwhelming. This is where I felt proud to be Maltese, seeing about 25,000 people forming part of the International Pilgrimage of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Malta gathered in one place, many of them displaying the cross of the Order and the word ‘Malta’ visible everywhere. A sense of camaraderie between groups from different countries could be felt; their main aim of helping Our Lords the Sick was tangible.
All the other Masses were beautiful ceremonies, especially because the sick, the pilgrims and the volunteers participated in different ways, such as in the readings and singing. One could feel that all were welcome in forming part of this annual pilgrimage.
I was lucky to visit Lourdes this year, 2016 being the Year of Mercy. The ceremony of walking through the Porte St. Michel while reciting prayers was a truly beautiful experience.
After much thought, I paid a visit to the Baths, and I must admit this was one of the most emotional moments of the whole visit. Visits to the Chapel of the Eucharist and reciting the Rosary in the quiet environment across the river opposite the Grotto, hearing the ripple of the river, are also memories I will treasure.
My final thought is that Lourdes is a place to seek healing in more ways than one. Although only a short visit, I came back to Malta feeling refreshed, peaceful and tranquil. God willing and with the help of Our Lady of Lourdes, I hope to be back.
Anna Mercieca - Pilgrim