Thursday Mass is celebrated in the Underground Basilica.
A difficult space to work in, The Trust plan with the young people in mind: extensive use of symbols, imaginative powerpoint and video presentations and creative texts help to keep everybody involved.
The Trust Mass is the main international event of the week.
Thursday is Trust Day in Lourdes. Over 3,500 pilgrims will have travelled to Lourdes with The Trust. Flying from all the major airports in England, Wales and Scotland they will be joined by groups from Romania, Slovakia and the West Indies. There are also three groups from the United States and a group from Croatia. Thursday is the day that all of these together with The Irish Pilgrimage Trust gather to celebrate Mass. Too large a crowd for the Basilica of St Bernadette, the groups now make their way to the underground basilica of St Pius X. Here over 6,000 people will join together with the bishops and priests of the Trusts to pray the Mass.
This is a wonderful occasion of prayer and colour, joy and dance, The celebration begins with the procession of banners from all the groups followed by the regional and national banners: the stars and stripes of the US, the chequered red and white of Croatia, the red of Wales, the white of England, the green of Ireland, the blue of Scotland, the blue, yellow and red of Romania, the blue ard red of Slovakia. All follow the national banners of The Pilgrimage Trust and The Irish Pilgrimage Trust. The priests follow and then the bishops of the Trust approach the altar to begin Mass.
The prayers and music, readings and reflections are all specially prepared for the large congregation: the strength of the visual and the power of symbols overcome the huge space that is St Pius X's Basilica. All are invited into the celebration of the Eucharist: Christ's gift to the Church that has become the defining action of the Church. Here we continue a tradition that stretches back through the centuries: we, the post resurrection Church, gather together to break the bread and drink the wine; this is our community of faith where we try to remain faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the community, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Here we are strenghtened to live together, to own everything in common to reach out and share with those in need (cf Acts 2,42-47).
As with the celebration of Mass on Tuesday, this Eucharist finishes with a joyful singing of the The Trust 'songs': Rise and Shine, the story of Noah, prompts us all to our feet as we sing and sign the words of those rainy days! It is a long time before we leave the basilica. In recent years, groups have used the floor space, bringing with them rugs and cushions to create their own 'sacred' space for the group. Bishops mingle through the basilica to say hello, recognising colours and numbers, friends old and new. It is a great celebration that overflows eventually into the square outside as groups make their way back to their hotels.
The Wexford banner ready for the entrance procession
After lunch we return to the underground basilica again for the Eucharistic procession and blessing of the Blessed Sacrament. Recognising that many of the pilgrims from The Trust come to this procession, the Domaine authorities encourage the use of the songs and prayers of the morning Mass during this service. In recent years this has meant that this ceremony is more accessible for our pilgrims. Suddenly our songs and prayers reach beyond the family of The Trust, across the Spanish border to Santander, right around France to the various diocesan groups in Lourdes during Easter Week, to the wonderful Italians who come to Lourdes with UNITALSI. Language barriers are crossed with songs and dance, joy and laughter. The wonderful joy of an The Trust pilgrimage is shared with all. Easter week in Lourdes is a very different week.