Almost the first thing I did in Lourdes was to walk, head first, into the plate glass door of the gift shop in the lobby of our hotel. The door had been cleaned so thoroughly that it was invisible, at least to me. I bounced back with a little cry. Nice women assistants rallied around. One of them slapped a dressing on my forehead and said it would stop a bruise forming.

In your dreams, I thought. Yet it worked: I didn’t get a bruise. It was the closest I came to a miracle in Lourdes.

No sneer here, by the way. After all, the odds are several million to one against a miracle. The Church has recognised only 70 miracles out of the thousands that have been claimed for Lourdes in the 160 years since Our Lady appeared to the 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous at a refuse dump in a grotto — now the Grotto – just outside town. The Church is rightly sceptical in its approach to miracles.

…….

Perhaps tiredness explains (if it does not excuse) my accident with the door. On the morning of our departure for Lourdes we had risen at 3.45 to be at Heathrow for a 7.40 flight to Toulouse. We were members of a 40-strong party of pilgrims from St Bede’s, Clapham Park. We were in the care of two spiritual guardians – Fr Przemysław Zgórecki, a very agreeable young Polish priest who is an assistant to Fr Christopher Basden, parish priest at St Bede’s, and Mgr Leo White, a gentle priest of 89 who helps in the parish.

The pilgrimage was organised by the remarkable Maria Chang. She is the Gift Aid co-ordinator for the parish and represents the Latin Mass community on the parish council. Thanks to her gentle shepherding all went smoothly.

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