By: Natallia Ushe, Customer Services and Sales Officer

lourdesatnight 2The Catholic Church in France is often referred to as the “eldest daughter of the Church”, as its Catholic roots run deep throughout the country and its history. We witness this in the numerous miracles, apparitions, and Saints that France has brought forth over the centuries. You can discover all this through the churches, shrines and Marian apparition sites that adorn the cities of France. As Lourdes is particularly close to my heart, I shall begin there.

If you travel to Lourdes  anytime between March and November and stand at the top of the Basilica in the evening,  you are likely to see hundreds of pilgrims in procession, praying to Our Lady, united together in singing to her with a resounding ‘Ave’. It is an awe-inspiring image to see; no words can describe the impression Lourdes has on its visitors. However, Yvonne McIntosh came close when she said “explaining what Lourdes is really like is like trying to describe the beauty of a sunset to a blind man!”

D661To truly experience Lourdes is to experience the love of Christ. Seeing the volunteers serve the disabled is to see Him at work in them. Hundreds of helpers travel to Lourdes all year round to aid the sick and can usually be noticed by the fluorescent vests that they wear, or the numbers painted on their t-shirts and faces! It is a beautiful way to serve in your diocese whilst also finding fulfillment in your own life.

It is not uncommon to be distracted by the many shops paving the way to the Grotto in Lourdes. However, once you arrive within its gates, you are sure to encounter people from all walks of life, who gather with a single purpose to pray silently and lovingly together. They pray for themselves and their loved ones and often ask for spiritual and physical healing. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Lourdes, the Grotto provides a haven from the struggles of everyday life; it provides a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. The Way of the Cross of the Espelugues (see link below), on the hillside is an experience not to be missed. Since Lourdes is a very special place for the sick, there is also a Way of the Cross for those physically unable to climb the hill, still retaining the beauty of the landscape in both a physical and spiritual way.

One of the most powerful experiences I had in Lourdes was when I volunteered with the HCPT Pilgrimage Trust during the Easter of 2010. With the help of another volunteer, I cared for a young disabled lady for the week. I was enthusiastic to be helping her, but towards the end of the week my patience had worn thin due to the heat, lack of sleep, and dealing with the frustrations that the young lady I was caring for had. The Thursday of Easter week arrived, and our group went to a mass in the ‘Underground Basilica’. As I entered, I was greeted by the sounds and sight of some 5,000 volunteers and pilgrims gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist. With the weight of the week having taken its toll on me, I SP23was eager to find a place to rest throughout the mass.  During the Gospel, as I looked around at the other volunteers and children, the words of Christ “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4) came to mind. I could see these words clearly manifest in every pilgrim I encountered. The overwhelming sense of selfless love that each of the volunteers gave to the children they were caring for illuminated my life at that moment and transformed my spirit of service. At the end of the Eucharist, with a renewed sense of joy, I wheeled the young lady home – this time, not because I was supposed to, but because I really wanted to.

Lourdes is a beautiful place to find sanctuary, to help others and, of course, to pilgrimage. It can be said of Lourdes that there is a ‘before and after’ aspect to each person’s encounter with this special place. Whether going with family on holiday, as a volunteer with your diocese, or indeed as a pilgrim on your own, the experience of Lourdes will gently leave its mark on you in some way, forever.

 

Lourdes Holiday Essentials:

 

More information:

HCPT: Life-Changing Pilgrimage Holidays 

Lourdes Pilgrimage Testimonies 

The Way of the Cross

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes (Official Website)

Sacred Sites: Lourdes

Lourdes Pilgrimage 2015: Diocese of Westminster

 

By: Fergal Martin, General Secretary

Second marriages, trial marriages, same sex marriages, divorce, annulment, and receiving Holy Communion. You name it. It’s all here, and on the agenda for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October.

If common sense should ever drive a debate, this must be it. The truth of our identity and internal drivers is not of itself unduly complicated. We can certainly make it so.  Viewed through the lens of what is naturally in the best interest of others, Christian anthropology and experience certainly make  a whole lot of common sense. What set of human arrangements most supports the common good? Christian marriage and the Christian family rank very high indeed – as merciful, generous, fruitful and constructive.

In which case, you really should spend 45 minutes of your time viewing this excellent and concise common sense presentation of what Catholics believe and how they live: Marriage – God’s design for life and love (2015), available here.

You can watch the trailer below:


Click here for more CTS books about Marriage and Family Life 

By: Pierpaolo Finaldi, Managing Editor

…No this isn’t the beginning of a bizarre religious joke. The Dalai Lama was invited to speak at the huge summer festival of popular music in Somerset and was asked whether he endorsed the message of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. He had glowing words of appreciation for the Holy Father and thanked him for bringing the issue to the top of the agenda for the international community.

Taking a leaf out of Pope Francis’s book, the Dalai Lama was happy to go beyond his ordinary message of world and inner peace and gave some practical advice on saving energy and water. “I always turn the lights off when leaving rooms and take showers instead of baths” although he did admit to taking two showers a day!

It is particularly interesting for Catholics that the crowds at Glastonbury were asked to consider the teachings of the Church not far from the site of the oldest Marian Shrine north of the Alps! Glastonbury continues to be a charming and worthwhile place for pilgrimages today.

For more information about making a pilgrimage to Glastonbury order Glastonbury: A Pilgrim’s Companion from the CTS Christian shrines series.

Do908 Laudato Si'By: Pierpaolo Finaldi, Managing Editor

Laudato Si identifies the environmental problems facing the world and the global challenge of looking after our common home. The solutions call for major changes in the consumer economy and global politics, but the Holy Father also calls on families and individuals to do their part. Here are 5 practical suggestions made by Pope Francis that we can all put into practice…

1. Use your purchasing power to effect change!

“This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.” (LS 206)

2. Return to saying grace before and after meals

“That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.” (LS 227)

3. Buy fewer presents (for yourself) and be more present

“A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment.” (LS 222)

4. Small actions are an act of love

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.” (LS 211)

5. Take time to appreciate the beauty of creation

“By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple.” (LS 215)

 

Laudato Si sometimes paints a bleak picture of the situation but there is hope!

“All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom.” (LS 205)

 

You can pre-order Laudato Si now from CTS for £4.95…

By: Natallia Ushe, Customer Services and Sales Officer

D653When thinking of where to go on holiday, many people choose a destination for its bustling lifestyle; sun; gorgeous scenery, and delicious cuisine. Then there is the ultimate shopping experience along the Champs-Élysées or Las Ramblas. But if you find yourself searching for something more, why not consider the rich Catholic culture that lies in the midst of some of the most popular holiday destinations.

Spain is home to one of the greatest and oldest pilgrimages, the El Camino de Santiago. For those who do not wish to walk the whole road, there is a possibility of starting the trail at various different points. (More information below).

The pilgrimage itself is one of the most difficult trails to complete. Many have had to stop due to the gruelling toll: the exhaustion, the leg fatigue and, not to mention, the tricky roads you have to walk!

But don’t fret!

Though challenging, it is a beautiful pilgrimage where one can experience a profound sense of the love of God through the other pilgrims. Whether it is the person you happen to pass along the Camino, or the little old lady you help down the stairs of the Cathedral; one thing many pilgrims and tourists say on is that this pilgrimage has changed their life in some way. Sharing in the faith through this pilgrimage, they can testify that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

If you cannot get to Santiago, there are many other ways to experience Pilgrim Spain. There is Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, for a truly aesthetic pilgrimage! For the more practical pilgrims, there is the possibility of walking in the footsteps of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross in Toledo and Avila. If you are on a family holiday, or needing to “escape from the confinements of daily life” (Baldwin, 13) there is a niche for you in Spain. Challenge yourself to do something different this summer. As Malcom McKay says (article attached below): “we are all capable of far more than we think we are”.

More Information:

Planning your Pilgrimage: Routes to Santiago

Walk of a lifetime: Why the epic Camino trail across Spain is a route to true happiness

Spanish Holiday Essentials:

Libro de Oracion Comun Teresa of Avila D653 B702
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

By: Pierpaolo Finaldi, Managing Editor

The Holy See Press Office has confirmed the title of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment which will be released on Thursday 18th June 2015.

The Holy Father has once again broken with convention and not used Latin for the title of his second encyclical. “Laudato si’,” (may you be blessed) is a quotation from St Francis of Assisi’s poem, The Canticle of the Creatures. The poem is the first post-Latin work of Italian literature, written in thirteenth century Umbrian dialect.

The subtitle of the encyclical: ‘on the care of our common home’, is clearly rooted in the important Catholic Social teaching concept of the Common good.

CTS is looking forward to having printed copies ready within a week of release, it will be available to purchase as soon as we know the length of the document and can set a price here.

For a couple of interesting treatments of the background to the forthcoming encyclical see the following stories:

CRUX – Getting ahead of the spin on the pope’s environmental encyclical

BBC Magazine – Is the Pope a Communist?


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