Group pose for a photo on the Beach.
Mass in Gavarnie by the edge of the snow.
The sandy beach of St Jean de Luz is always a great treat after the bus drive from Lourdes.
Singing in the Rain!!!
Wednesday, nearly half way through the Pilgrimage Week. Traditionally The Irish Pilgrimage Trust groups take an excursion out of Lourdes on Wednesday. This is the decision of the Group Leader and the venue and length of journey will often be dictated by the needs of the young people in the group.
Gavarnie is ever popular. Situated up in the mountains above Lourdes this small village boasts of very little: a cafe, a walk along a stream and a chapel. For centuries it was one of the last places to stop before crossing the French/Spanish border on the route to Compostella. For The Irish Pilgrimage Trust it is a change of venue for the day. Our pilgrimage is early in the year - in 2008 it was the 23rd March - so Gavarnie often has snow at this time. From Lourdes there is always snow in the distance capping the mountain tops. Here in Gavarnie it is no longer tantalisingly in the distance: it is right at hand. Bishops have been known to partake in the odd snow ball fight!
Some groups journey to St Jean de Luz by the sea. A longer journey than the trip to Gavarnie this is a lovely way to pass a few hours by the Atlantic Ocean. A few minutes paddling in the water, a walk along the sea front, a cup of coffee and a picnic lunch can be just the tonic in the middle of the week. The Atlantic may be the same ocean that surrounds our shores but walking along the beachfront here seems an eternity away from the hustle and bustle of home.
Other groups spend a leisurely morning around Lourdes enjoying a restful stroll, a late breakfast. A half day excursion is also possible: the Zoo, the Aquarium or the Forest can be as enjoyable. And then of course there is also the possibility of shopping at IBOS, a large shopping centre nearby.
The mountain air is refreshing. The change of pace is renewing. It brings its own rewards: often groups are happy to stay indoors on Wednesday night. There are diaries to fill, post cards to write and the large group candle needs to be decorated before it is brought with our prayers to the grotto at the end of the week.
On Wednesday evening there is a celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This annual event is an invitation to helpers and some of the young people to attend confession and receive the forgiveness of the Lord. Many of our friends from HCPT join us for this celebration and for many it is a powerful and meaningful aspect of the week. Held in the Rosary Basilica it is for many an opportunity to go to the grotto late in the evening. It's a different place at night: quiet, tranquil and prayerful. This visit for many is the most significant of the week. It is a special personal time when a pilgrim can bring their prayers and intentions before the Lord.