The Order of Malta’s Annual pilgrimage to Lourdes Reinforces the duty of Catholics to serve our Lords the sick
The Order of Malta’s 52nd annual international pilgrimage of the Order to Lourdes will take place 30 April - 4 May 2010. 35 members of the Canadian Association of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (the Order of Malta) will join in excess of 6,000 Order members, malades and volunteers, from some 35 countries who attend annually. For 152 years, pilgrims from around the world have converged on Lourdes to seek healing, purification and graces from God.
This first began Feb 11, 1858 when Our Lady appeared to a 14-year old shepherd girl, Bernadette Soubirous, as she was collecting firewood near the famed grotto. Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette on 18 occasions over five months, bringing the message of penance, conversion and healing. Bernadette died in 1879, was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes in August, 2004 and had made Marian piety one of the centerpieces of his papacy. Lourdes has become one of the most visited religious shrines in the world, with the Order of Malta’s pilgrimage being the largest of the international pilgrimages coming to Lourdes each year. 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. For the Knights and Dames 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, have been central to the ethos of our Order from its beginnings, and thus provide members with a direct link to our very foundations over nine centuries ago. 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, spirituality and humility. It was truly a humbling experience. People from all walks of life, CEOs, entrepreneurs, professionals, non-members, all wearing the same uniform and sharing the same purpose and duty of care is heart warming. To me it speaks much about the personal character of those who make the journey annually and work tirelessly with selfless purpose. Our Lady’s message is alive and thriving, and the experience not only makes a lasting memory but also makes an indelible impression in the heart” says His Excellency Peter Quail, President of the Canadian Association of the Order of Malta. The Order of Malta is the fourth oldest religious order of the Catholic Church, and the oldest order of chivalry in the world, founded in 1099 A.D. The charism of the Order is personal sanctification of members, defense of the faith, and service to the sick and poor.