The UK visit of the Relics of St Bernadette is proving immensely popular after a busy arrival at Westminster Cathedral.
“Lourdes has come to Westminster,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols remarked in his homily at a special Mass on Monday 5th September at the end of the Relics’ two-day visit to Westminster Cathedral.
Fr. Dennis Touw from the Relics’ media team told the Universe that ‘some 52,000 people’ are estimated to have attended at Westminster Cathedral. He added that more than 800 attended in his own parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Fulham.
Cardinal Nichols spoke of the deep sense of peace visited on the thousands of pilgrims that lit candles and prayed alongside the great saint who, as a 14-year-old girl, saw the Virgin Mary eighteen times in a series of apparitions in a cave on the outskirts of the French mountain town of Lourdes.
“I confess that when spending some quiet time before the Relics, I found it to be so similar to being at the grotto in Lourdes itself,” he said.
“Even though there was a constant flow of people, what struck me was the deep sense of peace. There was an intense focus on Our Lady. There were countless moments in which people clearly entrusted themselves, and their anxieties, to Our Lady at the prompting of St Bernadette – by their petitions, by their gestures, by lighting candles; through gentleness and patience showed to one another.”
The Cardinal remarked that the relics’ appearance comes at a timely moment, when many are struggling financially and experiencing ‘hardship.’
“It may be important to remember that as we face a time of hardship and distress, that the response of God, as shown in the encounters between Our Lady and St Bernadette, is not to promise a utopia here, but rather to enter our darkness and brokenness with an unfailing, healing light until we reach the happiness of heaven, again as promised to St Bernadette,” he said.
“This moment has reminded us of the great importance of our faith in our society today, expressed in prayer and service, gathered and strengthened in the community of the Church.”
Reflecting on the hopes for the Relics’ tour, Fr. Dennis Touw highlighted the importance of ‘reconnecting’ with faith communities and of rediscovering pilgrimage after enforced lockdowns and separation.
“The hoped for legacy of the tour has always been twofold,” he said. “Firstly that people will reconnect with the idea of going on pilgrimage, in particular a return to Lourdes – places where the power of God is manifest and where heaven touches the earth in a powerful and profound way. Secondly that we reconnect with our faith communities after the enforced separation caused by the Covid pandemic.”
The Relics are now continuing to 40 other venues in their tour of the UK.