In 1858, at Lourdes in southern France, 14 year old Bernadette Soubirous is reputed to have seen the Virgin Mary. Lucy Carter accompanied some of the 5 million pilgrims who visit each year seeking spiritual healing and perhaps a cure
Giving up part of your hard earned summer holiday for a spiritual visit is not something I found easy to explain during my years at school and at sixth form. People who have been to Lourdes tend to agree: you can really only grasp how much more there is tangled up in the whole pilgrimage experience when you have seen it for yourself. Volunteering as a helper on pilgrimages--including 6 am shifts and bed pans--has been an important part of my summer for the past five years. This year was my first pilgrimage as a medical student.
A pilgrimage group recruits ill pilgrims, clergy, youth groups, and hospital helpers from a collection of local churches that form a diocese. A typical British pilgrimage includes between 20 and 50 ill pilgrims, with illnesses and disabilities ranging from epilepsy to multiple sclerosis and from cerebral palsy to spina bifida. Pilgrims with more