Time is transcended and Heaven touches earth. The week of the Oxford-Cambridge Universities Lourdes Pilgrimage 2022 was one endless day, structured by a succession of extraordinary events — ordinary occurrences in this magnificent Marian shrine. Stepping into the sanctuary, breath-taken before the beautiful basilica, I was standing back in the shoes of my twenty-one-year old self who, three years ago, had volunteered for Westminster Diocese with Newman House Catholic Chaplaincy, providing personal care and accompaniment for an assisted pilgrim at the Accueil St Frai. Now as a resident of Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy, I undertook my first year as a Stagiaire for the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes — a very different experience. We worked in various behind-the-scenes locations around the complex, offering up each task for Our Lady’s intercession, whether pushing pilgrims onto trains at the station, disinfecting handrails in the hospitals or controlling crowds at the torchlight Rosary processions. My favourite job was welcoming the public to the piscines — the baths where one can wash in the miraculous Lourdes water which sprang from the ground during Mary’s apparition to Bernadette on 25th February 1858. A holy adrenalin fuelled my enthusiastic, international interactions as I supervised the entrance to the queue. Explaining Lourdes’ spiritual significance in English, French and Spanish was a thrilling challenge, whether speaking to sceptical tourists or to prayerful pilgrims. With the latter group, when our eyes met, a supernatural spark flickered between us: we mutually recognised our common bond by the God who loves us, our universal understanding of Truth. It is this comfort of companionship on the pilgrimage through life with which I left Lourdes, and which I hope so many others can experience.
– Jasmine Jones