A Visit to Lourdes

Zip Dobyns

One of my pleasures during this past spring was a chance to visit the healing shrine at Lourdes, France. As most of our readers know, I am very interested in spiritual healing. I have been fortunate enough to be able to see some of the psychic surgeons in the Philippines and to see Katherine Kuhlman twice while she was still here. I had always wanted to go to Lourdes because of its reputation as a healing center, and when a client announced in late April that she was going, I decided to go along. Of course, I did look at my own horoscope and discovered that I had a grand trine in fire including P Moon, P south lunar node, and natal Mars-Neptune. Calculating my chart for Lourdes just reinforced the message since it put my Neptune on the local Ascendant. And of course, the asteroids blew me away. The shrine is dedicated to Mary. In my chart, P Mary was semisextile Neptune; P Maria was conjunct Neptune; P Gallia (France) was opposite Neptune. P Vaticana was on my natal Ascendant. All aspects were within one degree orbs. My son, Bill, also went on the trip. He has worked with spiritual healing for some years, and he accompanied me to see the psychic surgeons and to the Ashram of Sai Baba.

I can’t say that we saw any healings, as far as we know, but it was a very moving experience. The shrine is beautiful. It is in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in the southeast of France. The grotto where Bernadette saw her vision is a shallow cave which now has an altar and statue of the Virgin plus many candles always burning. A steady procession of people goes in to pray and light candles and touch the rock walls of the grotto or the statue. A stream runs just a few yards away, and the mountains are covered with forests.

One large traditional church was built on the crest above the grotto, with a large plaza in front where people can assemble for ceremonies in the open air. Another modern church has been built more recently on the far side of the stream, and bridges provide easy access to it. Still another underground church (called a basilica) is on one side of the long divided road leading from the shrine’s entrance to the open plaza in front of the original church. A line of rooms on one side of the plaza provides for reception areas, information, etc. Just before the grotto, a row of at least 20 faucets jut out from a stone-faced wall, and a steady stream of people come to drink and fill containers with the famous water of Lourdes which is said to have healing properties. The baths are just beyond the grotto, where people disrobe in cubicles to sit briefly in the cold but presumably healing water.

A fair sized town has grown up on one side of the shrine, surviving mostly on feeding, housing, and selling souvenirs to visitors. The town is unabashedly commercial, but the shrine is not. We were never asked for money. The religious services which are conducted almost continuously in seven languages, the water, and even the baths which provided attendants to assist people in the cubicles, are all offered without charge. Of course, donations were welcome.

The most moving experience for me was the candlelight procession which was held each evening. Hundreds of people walked in the procession, holding candles with small paper circles around them to prevent the wind from blowing out the candles. Singing in which everyone joined alternated with priests who read religious verses in the seven customary languages. Everyone joined. I specially loved one song with a chorus of Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria, and was able to buy a cassette tape which included the music from a whole day of pilgrimage to Lourdes. Unfortunately, some of the tape turned out to be defective, but the song that I wanted most is ok. People walked in the procession in groups from various countries, led by one of their members who carried a sign announcing their place of origin. On the first night, we just watched the service from an elevated ramp on one side of the plaza. On subsequent nights, we joined first an Irish group and then a Swiss group, and even met women from East Germany who whispered their place of origin since communist countries frown on religious pilgrimages.

The most dramatic part of the candlelight procession was the row upon row of invalids on stretchers, in wheelchairs, and in little rickshaws pulled by religious attendants. There were hundreds of them lined up on the plaza in front of the church, with the marchers filling the open area behind them. It rained almost every day we were there, but the processions went on. People just pulled out umbrellas or raincoats and carried on. As I said at the beginning, I don’t know if any healing took place while we were there, but the atmosphere of love, faith, service and hope was everywhere.

Copyright © 1989 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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