The Order of Malta’s 54th annual international pilgrimage to Lourdes took place 03 May- 8 May 2010. In excess of 7,000 order members, malades and volunteers, from some 35 countries attended. They all join in prayer and procession to honour the shrine where, 154 years ago a fourteen year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux, had received visions of the virgin Mary. Since then, the site has become one of the most visited religious shrines in the world and pilgrims come from every corner of the globe to seek peace and succour, in a place where the sick are surrounded by love and care and every pilgrim, whatever his need, is aware of the serenity of the environment. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes in August, 2004 and had made Marian piety one of the centerpieces of his papacy. As Knights, Dames and volunteers of the Order of Malta, the Lourdes pilgrimage reminds of duty to our Lords the sick and fulfills our commitment to participate in this, one of the Order's greatest works. The role of pilgrimage and the care of those who undertake Christian pilgrimage has been central to the ethos of our Order from its beginnings, and thus provides members with a direct link to our very foundations so many centuries ago.
"The Order of Malta pilgrimages must be stages, or rather steps in the spiritual ascent of the members of the Order. The fruits they produce are measured by the growth in their Christian life and in their commitment to works of charity." (Archbishop Angelo Acerbu)
Passing through the very large crowds multiple times during the day, walking with malades or on the way to and from duty, it becomes very clear that this was a place of deep faith. The daily scene of thousands of people, young and old, well and sick, walking and in wheel chairs spoke volumes of the spiritual nature of this place.
Each National Association of the Order of Malta brings a large number of sick pilgrims to Lourdes (referred to as malades). The Order of Malta arranges an extensive program of spiritual activities and visits to the Holy sites, while providing continuous care for the malades and respite for their caregivers. Many malades and their caregivers are provided accommodations in a hospital ward type setting, others in hotel rooms. The malades receive the amount of care that each requires based on their illness, and can include getting the malades up, showered, shaved, dressed, fed; or cleaning-up in the ward and dining room; or preparations for bed. Daily mass, stations of the cross, the rosary, touring some of the areas of significance including, the baths and the grotto, all along ensuring the malades are well taken care of.
The week is one that reinforces faith, hope, charity, spirituality and humility.