Monday is a day to explore Lourdes - sometimes using the little train that wanders its way around the little town of Bernadette.
If the day is fine Monday can be a day to relax and have some fun on the prairie.
But Trust pilgrims learn to adapt very quickly. We do not travel to Lourdes expecting good weather and we always remind one another that pilgrims do not complain!
Monday, day two, is the first full day in Lourdes. When we arrived at the airport on Sunday we will have met many of the pilgrims from HCPT who are here for the week also. Now we meet them in our hotels, on the street, at the grotto: everywhere. The Trust seem to have taken over Lourdes. And so we have! We are the largest English speaking pilgrimage that comes to Lourdes during their pilgrimage season. While we number nearly five thousand we are organised into small groups of 25 so it never feels as if anyone is lost or over taken by the sheer number of people around. We are big in other ways as well. We have one of the largest number of doctors, nurses, chaplains, bishops and archbishops! We have even had cardinals with us. But back to the group!
Monday is the first day to get a sense of the town of Lourdes. It is often the first time when we will celebrate Mass together as a group. Some groups visit the 'BATHS' on Monday. Our Lady invited Bernadette to ask people to come and pray at the place. Bernadette discovered a spring and for over a century people have come to Lourdes to drink the water. Many people actually bathe in the water reminding themselves of baptism and forgiveness of sins.
Each group will have booked a venue for Mass and as a group they will celebrate the Eucharist. The chaplain says the Mass and everyone gets involved: to sing, recite a prayer of the faithful, give a reading, Often the bishops who come with us to Lourdes will join a group and after Mass will spend some time with the young people.
Monday is also a day to get a sense of the area around the grotto. This is called the Domaine. Some groups spend the afternoon wandering around visiting the basilicas and chapels which are part of the five acres that make up the sanctuary area. There is an underground basilica that can hold 10,000 people for Mass - it's as big as a football pitch. This basilica is called the basilica of St Pius X. Many groups will do the Stations of the Cross during the week and Monday is often the day. While the 'High Stations' are not used there are other options and next year a new set will be in place. Of course there is always time for a cafe or an orange. One of the great things about Lourdes is that the cafes and restuarants allow us to bring our own supplies of crisps and snacks. It can often be hard to find a space in the cafes in the late afternoon. Remember we are not just looking for a table or two: we need space for 25!
Monday evening is the evening for a rehearsal for the Irish Trust Mass which takes place on Tuesday morning. Musicians and readers, signers and bearers of the gifts go through their paces as the sound technicians put in place microphones and speakers which means that everyone will hear and be heard on Tuesday morning.
Evening time comes quickly. It is hard to think one day is over already. Evening meal is at 7.00pm and perhaps after a visit to the grotto as dark falls day two comes to an end.
Monday evening is an evening for meetings. Doctors and nurses meet together to be briefed by the Trust Medical Doctor Nurse and to meet old friends to compare notes. The hearing impaired are invited to meet also: they prepare some of the liturgy for Tuesday morning. The chaplains also meet and receive the instructions for the groups for Mass.