One of our first time Redshirts presented her experience of Lourdes at their School assembly. Here is what Anna said:
Hi, I'm Anna and I went to Lourdes as a 1st time Redshirt this summer. The main reason I decided to apply for Redshirts was because I was inspired by this assembly 2 years ago. After watching the video of the previous year's pilgrimage and hearing a few Redshirts talk about their experiences, I felt a huge excitement and a strong need to be part of it. I also grew up hearing Lourdes mentioned because there are several people from my parish who go to Lourdes every year and I now know why: Lourdes is the most beautiful place I've ever experienced.
- It is physically beautiful because it is set in the Pyrenees, which is the mountain range on the French-Spanish border, and has the most wonderful architecture particularly the Rosary Basilica.
- It has a beautiful tradition and legacy – I think that the concept of helping sick people to travel long journeys to reach a place that, because of their faith, they believe will help them is a beautiful thing and you really do see a lot of beauty in service in Lourdes.
- The sense of community and unity alone would make the trip worth it. Lourdes has really shown me that I am part of more than just our little catholic school and my parish. When you’re there you are very aware of the huge international community we are all part of as Catholics because there are so many nationalities represented in Lourdes. This was particularly obvious during the torchlight procession where all the dioceses in Lourdes gathered together to process around the esplanade at dusk to pray the rosary. Everyone carries a little candle and by the end of the procession it is completely dark, lit up by the candles of around 11 000 people! Between the decades of the rosary, which were said in French, English, Italian, German Spanish and Dutch, we sang and there were Latin responses. It is so hard to explain but the unity you feel when so many people are saying the same responses, when you realise that despite the language barriers everyone believes the same thing; it gives you a sort of euphoria and the most wonderful sense of community and belonging that I’ve never felt before and that I doubt you can feel anywhere other than Lourdes!
- Then of course there is the beauty of the Lourdes miracles. I discovered throughout the week that these miracles don’t only happen to those who’d gone there seeking healing as an assisted pilgrim, and they weren’t limited to the official physical healings. I truly believe that everyone who goes to Lourdes gets their own miracle, even if they didn’t realise they needed one.
- And finally, Lourdes has the most beautiful people and atmosphere. In Lourdes, and with the Redshirts in general, no one is judging you for anything and there’s no social competition like at school. Everyone is so kind, so open and it gives you this amazing freedom to be truly yourself, which is extremely liberating. When I was acting so naturally and making amazing friends it makes you so much more comfortable with yourself because I know I have friends who love me for my rawest self. And for me this is one of the Lourdes miracles; providing the situation for such liberation and happiness. The friends that I made in Lourdes are genuinely the best of friends. This was mentioned when I was in your place and I thought they were just being soppy. But really, you do make the best of friends. It’s, again, really hard to explain unless you’ve been there but the friendship you form is just another of the Lourdes miracles and you create a special bond that could happen nowhere else. Another thing you’ll hear Redshirts mentioning over and over again is the ice cream! Again I thought that ice cream was ice cream but the ice cream is a Lourdes miracle too!
For me, Lourdes is a unique and wonderful place and Redshirts is a fun, special way of experiencing it. As well as all whole pilgrimage events like mass and the torchlight procession, we do lots of sessions just as Redshirts. We have ministry sessions where we discuss a large range of things to do with faith and we experiment with different ways of approaching, celebrating and showing our faith. So throughout the week, among many, we prayed the rosary and partook in adoration, neither of which I’d done before but enjoyed a lot. We also sing quite a bit, but not the traditional hymns so much as modern, up beat songs of praise. One of my favourite that has come to represent Redshirts to me is “Set a Fire”, because we sang it a lot but also because of the lyrics. There is no place I’d rather be than with the Redshirts in Lourdes, and for me Redshirts reignited the flame of my faith, Lourdes set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain and I can’t control and my family, my friends and anyone else who has asked me about my summer has discovered this, because I really can’t contain my enthusiasm for Lourdes!
And so I really would encourage all of you to apply to Redshirts because it is the best decision I’ve ever made and without a second thought I would redo all the stress and work of year 11 just to relive those 10 days! The most important thing when applying is that you want to do it because then you will be able to immerse yourself properly into the experience and make the most of it.