Christian Brothers College principal Noel Mifsud, who is a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, was among the 7500 members and volunteers who accompanied 1450 sick and dying on the May 2018 pilgrimage.
Mr Mifsud described the pilgrims’ encounter with the sick in Lourdes as a “Eucharistic moment”.
“Christ was present whispering hope to the sick and courage to pilgrims,” he wrote in a report for the Order of Malta. “He cradled us in our pain and joy, singing and weeping, prayer and silence.”
Each morning, members of the Australian and Asia Pacific delegation gathered to pray the rosary.
“The many accents and languages in which the rosary was prayed reminded us all that the love of Mary for us her children is boundless and borderless,” Mr Mifsud said.
“Fr Gerard McMorrow in his sermon at the pilgrimage opening Mass in the crypt reminded us that St Bernadette was not canonised because she had visions of Blessed Mary but because she had opened her heart to God’s call.
“Lourdes invited us to open our hearts to the sick and the poor – to do whatever God tells us to do.”
Mr Mifsud said social evenings included an Irish concert and international gatherings which provided an opportunity to celebrate life with great joy.
Archbishop Becciu reminded pilgrims that they gathered at the feet of Mary Immaculate in Lourdes, through Mass, prayer and love of the poor.
A highlight of the pilgrimage for some was the full immersion in the sacred waters of Lourdes.
Hoping for a cure but receiving an even greater blessing was the theme of a personal story shared during the sermon at the final Australian Mass:
Maria, a pilgrim, was hoping for a cure for cancer in Lourdes in the midst of her desperation, her heart was both broken and broken open, by witnessing a child far sicker than she. It was at this moment she let go of her hope for a personal cure and replaced it with deep love and empathy for the dying child. In this intimate moment of love, in her fragility, God entered her life and paradoxically close to death she was born anew. Maria realised the miracle of Lourdes was not in receiving a cure but in the giving of unconditional love to others.
Mr Mifsud said Lourdes was a humble reminder to members of the Order of its mission to alleviate the suffering of the poor and sick, without judgement, distinction of religion, race or political persuasion.
“Like Maria we too were reminded of our fragility and pain and also of the depth of God’s love and deep joy in the life given to us: I came that you may have life and live it abundantly. John 10:10.”
Throughout the pilgrimage members of the Australian Order met with international delegations in the spirit of reciprocity to share new responses to emerging calls for help, globally.