First order of business: Gus' First Holy Communion at the Grotto.
It was early. It was chilly. It was in Italian. It was lovely. Gus was so pleased!
After the Mass at the Grotto, we headed in to one of the chapels, where an English speaking priest from South Africa, Fr. Paul, honored Gus on his special day. Also lovely.
Then we went out for crepes and hot chocolate!
Back to the Sanctuary to tour the churches . . .
Below you can see the crucifix just inside one of the gates, then the Rosary Basilica in front of the Upper Basilica.
I just adore the Rosary Basilica. Turn of the last century + covered in Mosaics = my favorite churches in the whole world. I could look at this one for hours. But we didn't have time for that!
Is it just me or does Cate Blanchette look exactly like Our Lady here?
Then we toured the Upper Basilica:
Stations of the Cross, the baths, Lourdes water for drinking and washing, confession . . .
We visited Le Cachot, St. Bernadette's childhood home. And we had the first of MANY ice creams.
Then back to the Grotto to specifically pray for each of your intentions.
And light candles for you at the brulières. That big one is for a very special intention. You know who you are!
Finally, we did the Candlelight Rosary Procession. Some of us slept through it. Some of us kept lighting our wind shields on fire.
And that was that. Day seized. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us.
The next morning, we headed for our next stop: Rocamadour.
It's a visually stunning and historically interesting pilgrimage site in the Toulouse region.
It was the home of a hermit named Zaccheus, who was maybe THE Zaccheus, who was married to a woman named Veronica, who was maybe THE Veronica. In any case, it has been a popular pilgrimage site for as long as anyone can remember.
We saw Our Lady of Rocamadour, this black Madonna who dates from at least the 9th Century, maybe earlier.
And it was in that chapel that we met Bishop Mary Fidelis and his entourage. He was venerating the statue and leading his followers: two young nuns, and two young men, in prayer.
Later, we met up with them again in the gift shop, where we all chatted and he showed us pictures on his iPhone, and offered to give us his blessing. And we accepted.
But my spidey sense was tingling. It just all seemed . . . off to me. This guy was young, really young for a bishop. He had with him two young nuns, and two young men. They were all beautiful. Their clothes and their trappings were beautiful. They were chatty. It was all very attractive. And showy.
But we have been fortunate enough to meet a number of bishops and other holy men, and they've always struck me as having a particular quality of recollectedness. Of being able to look at you and really listen with their eyes. This guy didn't have that at all.
As soon as we walked away I asked the husband to google him. And lo and behold, he's a sedevacantist bishop, ordained by this guy. And, I have to say, we all felt a bit creeped out by it all. It would appear that he is validly ordained, which would make his orders (and our blessing) valid but illicit. As in, he's not allowed to perform the duties of a bishop, but if he does, they still count.
So that was weird.
So we needed some ice cream.
But the ice cream was also weird. (Foie Gras? Cheese?)
Stay tuned for installment #3, which includes Chartres, Lisieux (not to be confused with THE zoo), Bayeux, Normandy and the WWII battlefields, and one trip to a French ER. You don't want to miss it.