Posts Tagged ‘International Military Pilgrimage’

Well-Being with Whitney: International Military Pilgrimage Celebrates Peace

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Hi everyone – I’m taking a break from this blog to focus on other work. Thanks for reading.

As Memorial Day approaches, let’s honor the men and women who have fought for our freedom, and pray for their well-being. Every May, military veterans and active duty members gather at the Virgin Mary apparition site of Lourdes, France in an event called the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes. This place where thousands of healing miracles have been reported over the years is where people travel from throughout the world annually to pray together and celebrate the miracle of peace.

The tradition began when members of the French and German militaries, who had fought each other during World War II, met at Lourdes in 1958 to seek help from God to reconcile their relationships.

Since then, the event has attracted military personnel and their loved ones from more than 35 nations worldwide. Those who are dealing with injuries or illnesses as a result of their military service (and their caregivers) may travel for free, through sponsoring organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and programs from various Catholic archdioceses around the world.

During the three-day event, the pilgrims gather for a series of worship services, parades, and times of talking together about their experiences. They stay at a place on the sanctuary grounds that’s part hospital and part hotel, cared for by thousands of volunteers who have paid their own way to come to Lourdes and help those who have fought for freedom in their nations. The military service members seek healing for physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds they’ve suffered.

Saint Bernadette Soubirous reported that she saw apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in a grotto by a spring of water at Lourdes on 18 separate occasions in 1858.

Mary said that Lourdes would be a special place for people who place their hope in God to visit, Bernadette said, adding that many would find healing for their bodies, minds, and spirits there.

Over the years since then, many people have flocked to Lourdes to seek that healing. Today, more than five million people visit Lourdes every year.

So many healing miracles have been reported from Lourdes that there is an official medical investigations bureau there. By opening themselves up to whatever God’s will is for their healing journeys, the military pilgrims welcome whatever may happen for them — everything from miraculous cures to empowerment for managing their challenges well going forward.

Healing through Prayers

Military service members spend a lot of time praying during the event. Through prayer, they communicate with God about all sorts of challenges they hope their faith will help them overcome.

One of the most common challenges they deal with is the stress of the trauma they have been through in combat. Many pilgrims have suffered from nightmares, had conflict and tension in their relationships with loved ones, and fought back and thoughts of suicide.

Anger issues are also often the topic of prayer for military personnel who have seen a lot of pain and injustice in their work.

Many pilgrims are working through grief over the deaths of their colleagues in the line of duty, as well as grief about other types of losses (such as arms and legs they lost when they got injured, or divorces that happened when their marriages fell apart after they returned home from deployment).

Depression is another subject that people often address in prayer at the pilgrimage. Many are seeking the hope of experiencing joy again after suffering through long periods of unrelenting sadness.

Yet another common topic of prayer at the event is forgiveness. Pilgrims pray about giving themselves and others forgiveness for past mistakes, and receiving God’s forgiveness.

Healing through Conversations

The conversations that the warriors have during the event also help them find the peace they’re seeking there. By simply being in each other’s presence, they say, they feel comforted and encouraged. By sharing their personal stories with each other, they discover that although each one of them has gone through different challenges, they’re all dealing with the same wounds in their souls that need to be healed.

Men and women of all ages, military ranks, and nationalities develop camaraderie through their discussions. They freely share thoughts and feelings they have previously kept hidden from others, they say, because their fellow military service members¬†understand what they’ve gone through, which motivates them to open up without fear of being judged for what they say.

When the pilgrims discover how much they all have in common, they report, they start to see each other not as enemies or strangers, but as brothers and sisters who are all beloved children of God.

Pilgrims discuss what spiritual lessons they’ve learned near the end of the conference. They affirm each other unconditionally — faith, doubts, and all — and encourage each other to keep bringing their questions and needs to God with open hearts and minds.