Lourdes is a Marian shrine in the south of France. For those with a devotion to Our Lady it has been a special place of pilgrimage ever since St Bernadette first set eyes on 'The Lady' when she was out gathering firewood in 1858. With a reputation as a place where miraculous cures occurred it became a place of pilgrimage, not just for the devout, but also for the sick. To date, seventy miracles have been recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, the last one in 2018. Others return to their daily lives renewed and enriched, better able to live well with their illnesses.
Lourdes has a special place in many hearts, including for those who feel a vocation for looking after the sick and less able, where Lourdes offers the opportunity to spend time in a place where people are not stigmatised but are embraced for everything they are. As well as enabling the sick to travel safely and in comfort to Lourdes, clinicians going on pilgrimages often feel they get as much from the experience as their charges, and return to their everyday jobs with a renewed sense of that vocation which called them into their chosen profession.
Many people from all walks of life unconnected with healthcare also give up their own time to assist in the task of providing care and assistance for the assisted pilgrims, either travelling with organised pilgrimages or working the "Stages" with the Hospitalite de Lourdes. The quality of care they deliver, and the joy they bring to the assisted pilgrims, is truely inspiring.
Lourdes is also a place of great spirituality and this, too, contributes to the sense of wellbeing which envelops people, even when they are not seeking it. Indeed, it is often those who come with the least expectations who find something that leads them to return again and again.