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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

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Mass at tomb of St. Thomas Aquinas followed by arrival in Lourdes

TOULOUSE, France — The Blessed Mother and Catholic guilt are great motivators. Just ask the pilgrims who set out at 5:30 a.m. this morning to board a train to Toulouse and then a bus to carry them all the way to Lourdes.

Everyone wanted to comply with the request to be on time because no one wanted to miss the connections necessary to carry them to Lourdes and also because no one wanted Father Reid's head count to come up short causing the group to miss out on the day's activities.

That's how seriously these Year of Faith Marian Pilgrimage pilgrims take their faith.

After the four-hour train ride through the French countryside, watching the Pyrenees Mountains grow ever-closer, they departed the train in Toulouse – a bustling city located in southwestern France.

The pilgrims walked through the city streets to the Church of the Jacobins where the tomb of St. Thomas Aquinas is located under an altar in the main body of the church.

For Drs. Jim McGovern and his wife, Maureen, today's Mass had special significance.

"Our son Patrick is going to make his confirmation next fall so this year he is going through the classes," said Maureen. "He has picked St. Thomas Aquinas as his confirmation patron saint. That was nice to be praying there for him. We lit a little candle for him."

They are also discerning some things with regard to their son's education.

"We wanted to dedicate this one component of the pilgrimage to discerning God's will for all of us in this regard and so this particular Mass was important for us because it was one of the biggest intentions of our pilgrimage," said Jim.

"I feel comforted that we were able to submit our intentions prayerfully and completely."

After Mass and a brief time to explore the main square of Toulouse, the Capitole, the pilgrims boarded the bus again and were off to Lourdes.

Once arriving in the quaint town once inhabited by Bernadette Soubirous and her family, and the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her, the pilgrims took the opportunity to head for the Grotto, to the many churches and to explore the area near the hotel.

Jim Beckert, who had been to Lourdes many years ago, flung his arms out as if to give the Blessed Mother a big hug when he approached the Grotto.

"Isn't this beautiful?" he exclaimed. "Our Lady is here, she's here."

The pilgrims had a 17-hour day today, so many were off to bed to prepare for tomorrow morning's Mass in the crypt church and a tour of the Grotto and Basilica. Tomorrow evening they will participate in the candlelight procession.

— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter

Come along with us on this virtual pilgrimage to France as we journey "to Jesus through Mary."

See more photos, learn about the people and places of the Church in France and the devotions they inspired and see the journey through the pilgrims' eyes:  http://triptofrance.tumblr.com/