The culmination of the Liverpool Archdiocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes each year is the celebration of Mass with the Anointing of the Sick which takes place on the morning of the final day. This, as we explain to our assisted pilgrims, is what we’ve been working our way towards throughout the week at Our Lady’s shrine. Many a seasoned Liverpool pilgrim, assisted and helper alike, will tell you it’s the highlight of their week. It’s easy for me to see why. The sense of God’s presence and power at that celebration is palpable. I can remember the first time I celebrated that Mass a priest. In fact, I could never forget it.
That’s not to say, however, that miracles, as the world expects them, accompanied by flashes of lightning or suchlike, are seen regularly at those celebrations. What we remind ourselves as pilgrims each year holds true, though. We go on pilgrimage so that we can return home. We have to return home having been changed so as to see that we can find that sense of God’s presence and love, what made the pilgrimage so special, even at home. We journey to a holy place so that we can discover that home is a holy place. The culmination of a pilgrimage may be a Mass, often called one of ‘healing’ because of the other sacrament we celebrate then, but the source and summit of any week as a Catholic Christian is the Eucharist. We don’t have to journey with passport and suitcase to find the healing that we need, the healing of forgiveness and inclusion in God’s family. We just have to journey to church for Mass.
Going to Mass on Sunday may not feel like such a big deal but again a very real and important change is effected in us by the Eucharist. If we can offer all at the celebration, all that daily toil plants in our heart’s poor soil, all we start and spoil, each hopeful dream, chances missed and graces resisted, then each Mass that we celebrate will be one of healing. If we really can ask the Lord to take all of this and redeem, then again the presence and power of God will be palpable. It’s with this healing of souls that we can humbly ask the Lord to enter under our roofs, but only so that we can take our place at his table.