According to Mary’s instructions to Saint Bernadette, she was to wash and drink from the spring waters at Lourdes. Today, pilgrims continue to abide by those commands, and a whole baths complex has developed to accommodate them. And So I found myself at 9:30 in morning waiting with hundreds of other women for my water immersion, while grey veiled nuns led us through prayers to Mary in Italian. The men, women and children all had separate sections of the bath house. When my turn arrived I was led inside and sat down to wait my turn. A curtain then drew back and a volunteer ushered me to enter a changing room shared with 7 other women, where I stripped naked while she covered me in a cloak. I sat down wrapped in my cloak and awaited my turn for the bath. When it arrived, a curtain was drawn back and before me were 3 female volunteers and a granite bath tub. The cloak dropped and I was wrapped in a cold towel. I was told to formulate my “intentions” or prayers to Mary and when I was ready to walk towards the far end of the tub and sit down in the water. So a made my wishes – for the well being and happiness of Baby, T, my parents and the rest of my family – and I stepped into the glacial waters, walked deeper toward the far end of the tub, and sat down while 2 volunteers leaned me backwards up to my neck. I gasped for air. And then it was over. I was raised from the water, cloaked and led back into the changing room. Visibly touched by the gentleness and love of the experience. Tears streamed, which I could not explain. Some sort of emotional opening.
Outside, I lit a candle and repeated my prayers, while in the distance a prayer group began singing the Salve Regina – a song that has forever a profound meaning for me since I first set off for pilgrimage from Le Puy en Velay, where it was composed in the 9th century. I indeed felt blest in that moment. Where I was supposed to be.
T met me shortly thereafter and we had lunch at the lovely Hotel Moderne.
We are now on the train returning to Paris. Our 2 week adventure in the Pyrenees disappearing into the distance, while the rain and grumbling sky stream down.