By MARIAN CURD
THE snows may not yet have melted on the high Pyrenees
when in four months time, on February 11, an appointed Legate, ending a Triduum of prayer, opens the Centenary Year in Lourdes—home of The Immaculate Conception, a Capital City of Prayer.
But like the rush of waters down the river Gave when those snows do melt, the stream of pilgrims, always constant, will swell and grow until in a year's time seven —perhaps eight—million people from all over the world will have visited Our Lady's
The Holy Father. in an Encyclical letter 'addressed to the French Hierarchy. spoke of the message that Our Lady gave to St. Bernadette: the simple and binding message of the Gospel. penance, conversion of heart, the re-awakening of consciences and the rebuilding of a society by a complete breaking off from materialism in all its forms.
And the Pope has also given us a special Centenary Year prayer which, if said at the grotto, can gain three years' Indulgence. Under the patronage of Cardinal Tisserant and Cardinal Feltin, under the presidency of Bishop Theas of Tarbes and Lourdes and with the assistance of the Oeuvre du Comae, an International Cornmittee has been formed to arrange the celebrations and to complete the underground church of St. Pius X:
In conjunction with the International Committee the Hierarchy in each country concerned has appointed a National Committee for the Centenary of the Apparitions
comes the insistent warning: It. is absolutely essential that pilgrims who travel to Lourdes individually next year should book their accommodation at the earliest possible moment. They should bear in mind that such important events ae the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and blessing of the sick in the afternoon. and the evening torchlight procession will take place every day during the Centenary Year. Apart from the outstanding ceremonies of the opening day on February II, anniversary of the first Apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette and Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, when a Cardinal Legate will preside, there will be other major dates such as March 25 when Our Lady declared " am the Immaculate Conception " (consecration day of the Basilica of St. Pius X); July 16, the last of the Apparitions; August 15, Feast of the Assumption; and September 10-17 when the Mariological (scientific) and Marian (C.O.M.) Congresses are held. The Pope is to broadcast a special message on a date yet to be announced. During the year Lourdes is to be illuminated at night even as Paris never attempted. Fountains, statues, churches. even the stern looking old Chateau-fort — all will be lit by powerful floodlights and some coloured searchlights will light up the surrounding mountains.
FR. Patrick Peyton's films of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary now being processed and dubbed, will be shown during a Triduum preceding the opening of the Year on February 8, 9 and 10, and subsequently on each Saturday throughout the year. Another film to he shown will be one on the life of St. Bernadette now being made in colour in Paris and having as many as 10,000 " extras" in some scenes.
TWO immense projects are in TWO immense projects are in hand. First, the giant Basilica of St. Pius X, among the largest churches in the world, threequarters the size of St. Peter's, Rome, to hold 20,000 people and scheduled for consecration on March 25. With its " no pillar " interior, and "Sound-barrier" acoustical arrangements it has already been named as one of the most daring architectural enterprises of our
Now, there will be no fear of outdoor processions of the Blessed Sacrament being cancelled. Instead, they will be held in the Basilica where the sick will he wheeled down giant ramps.
Catholics of the world are invited to help pay the f1,500.00n
Mgr. Jean Rodhain was mindful of the poor'' those who wish to go to Lourdes but cannot afford a hotel. For these. the Shelter City of St. Peter is being built on 45 acres of land on a hill above the town. Here, NO people at a time including some 20 priests-can be accommodated in chalet like " pavilions" — completely free of charge. And again, the Catholics of the world are asked to give. Asked to give either in thanksgiving for their own pilgrimage or as an offering in place of themselves if they are unable to-go. The Shelter City will have cost 24 million francs. But. to receive so many pilgirrns in such a tiny town is a tremendous problem for Lourdes. Nine years ago, in a way, the Authorities began to prepare. With the heir; of the State. thousands of millions of francs have been spent to develop the water system, improve roads (an outer circuit road is nearly finished) --and now a new post &nee is being built to cope with the enormous post. Lourdes is the record holder in France for the number of postcards despatched. In the Marian Year the, total was /1,000,000 — next year may be 20,000,000.
THE famous baths have been re built beyond the grotto. Ossun, the airport for Lourdes, has been vastly extended at a cost of £130,000. Where 18,000 passengers were landed in 1956, arrangements are being made to deal with at least 70,000 in 1958 -more than 20,000 of them from Ireland. But accommodation is the most serious problem and the hardest to solve. The local Authority under the Mayor — M. Antoine Beguerre (leader of France's champion Rugby team) and the Centenary Committee have long been hard at work.
Usually the town can receive about 38,000 people. Hotels obviously cannot extend just for one year and wait another 100 years perhaps for so much trade.
Marty pilgrims will be transported daily from youth camps and from other towns including Pau, Tarbes, Argeles-Gazost, and Bagtiers de Bigorre. No single rooms will be available. And, indeed, 1958 pilgrims will certainly be on pilgrimage in the literal sense of the word.
THERE will he hundreds of National and International Pilgrimages. Thc English National Pilgrimage will take place May 12-20 and September 22-30. There will be a special camp for disabled boy scouts; pilgrimages of the blind. the deaf and dumb, the Army, the Air Forces, and so on. But, warns the Centenary committee again, individuals and small eroups are advised not to travel at he same time as these large pilerimeges. The same applies to those who dread being driven about in large swirling masses of people . . Few more sick than usual will be accommodated. Sister Patrick, of Donegal, who has worked at the Scpt Dolours Hospital for the past seven years, tells us that already applications have been received for 17,000 sick next year. The "day's delay " will be cut out and sick pilgrims will be arriving to occupy beds the same day that others move out. In July and Meuse when the National pilgrimages are at their height, 100,000 people can be expected in the town on any one day. 11 possible that traffic. with the exception of ambulances, may lie slopped through the centre of Ililee n.
FIVE HALLS WHAT k the test of the world doing about the Centenary? In ENGLAND five great halls- in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford have been booked for great Marian Rallies on the evening of February 141, And in many a parish committees arc at work planning. pilgrimages " Stay-at-home" pageants, plays and
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LOURDES PLANS A WELCOME
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I asked Messrs. Thomas Cook, jhe wen-known travel agents, about their plans.
This firm, who are running pilgrimages through the whole year, report that they expect the normal 20,000 people who leave this country to increase next year to at least 80,000.
British and French railways are ordering at least 50 special trains for organised pilgrimages from this country .
In April. they tell me, 100 special trains will converge on Lourdes from Switzerland, France, Belgium and Holland. In May. 100 special trains will come from Spain; in June and July more than 200 trains will go from these five countries alone.
1,000 AUSTRALIANS COOKS are maknig the arrange ments for 1,000 Australian pilgrims, who, led by Cardinal Gilroy, will arrive in Lourdes in May. Large parties are being booked from America, 200 are tat citing from New Zealand. others from South Africa, the Philippines, etc.
New Zealand Catholic newspapers advertise a Lourdes and World Tour for £765 (tour of England £55 extra!). American Express are arranging pilgrimages of several hundred people to sail on the liners " Independence " and "Constitution," and on the "Queen Elizabeth " arriving in time for the opening ceremonies. American Express Travel Service for months past have advertised at least 40 pilgrimages from the U.S.A. from #910.
Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, will be leading hundreds of American pilgrims who will sail on the flagship of the Greek Line, T.S.S. "Olympia," from New York next September.
In addition to " special " trains, ievera! trains a day will link Paris (Austerlitz Station) with Lourdes The number of couchetts and sleeping cars will be doubled. Cheap fares will be available for family. group or tourist return tickets.
AIRLINES LINES and travel agencies ' with air licences will be " showering " planes into Ossun, the airport for Lourdes.
Aer Lingua, who already have bookings for 25,000 people will at the peak times be operating as many as 20 return trips a day most of them by Viscounts.
Another firm using these fast planes will he Pilgrim Tours who are quadrupleing their number of pilgrimages. Salford, Stockton-onTees and Liverpool are just a few places with agents who are stepping up their running to daily flights at the peak weeks.
A group of 1.200 scouts the largest single group Act-. Lingus have ever handled will fly to Lourdes on April 9-10 and return on April 14-15. A number of parents will make "flying" visits to Lourdes while their boys are there. So many flights are to be operated during this period that
parents will be able to travel to and from the Shrine M one day and have up to 14 hours there.
ON some days during April,
August and September, Aer Lingus will operate as many as 12 return trips on these days, therefore, it will he quite possible for people to make day trips to the shrine (from Dublin).
Some Viscounts operated by Act Lingus will he equipped to carry up to 14 stretcher cases and 35 seated invalids. And the trip is made in three hours non-stop against 35-40 hoes by the fastest method of surface transport.
French National Railways know already that they must have 740 trains at the disposal of pilgrimage organisers. There will he at least 498 for French pilgrims, 108 for Belgian pilgrims, 65 for British pilgrims, 31 for Dutch. 13 for Swiss, 13 for Spanish, six for Saarlenders, etc. German and Italian pilgrimages will use their own trains.
During the year 32 trains will be permanently set aside for pilgrimages. 27 of these will he equipped with loud-speaking apparatus so that the director may address all his group of pilgrims at the same time.
Thirteen ambulance carriages have been specially built and seven others are nearly ready. Each will contain 34-40 beds and will have a kitchen, loud-speakers, and electrical apparatus for purifying and disinfecting the air.
AND those who cannot travel to
Lourdes ? Whereas one could spend eight days there before the War for about £8 10s. inclusive, the minimum of about £30 now is still beyond the vast majority of people.
So, they will pray for the success of the Year. Like the old people in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States and Canada who have promised to say 10,000,000 (yes, ten million) Rosaries. And, we can give a little, perhaps to the new Basilica, perhaps to the City of the Poor, perhaps to the fund for taking sick children to Lourdes, or perhaps to the Sick Pilgrims Fund run by the Assumptionist Fathers.
Yes, though the feet of the world cannot all walk towards Our Lady's City. at least the mind and the eyes of the world will turn
and will be upon her . .