The Relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes

Posted: 6th January 2023

A privileged visit.

This September and October, the relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes travelled from the Upper Basilica in Lourdes to visit every Diocese in the UK.  On Tuesday 6th September a group of our Community and Faith Life Prefects, accompanied by Mrs McDermott, Head of Faith Life, and Miss Johnson, were privileged to be invited to the visit of the relics to St Mary’s University in Twickenham.

The Catholic shrine of Lourdes in Southern France was established after Saint Bernadette saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who asked Bernadette to build a place of pilgrimage for the sick to ask God’s help and Our Lady’s intercession.

Mrs McDermott continues, ‘We were fortunate to be invited to attend the Mass for schools at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, as part of the tour of the UK of the relics of St Bernadette. When we arrived at St Mary’s we waited on the piazza outside the Chapel with the other school groups for the arrival of the relics. The relics are being transported in a specially branded van and we saw the care with which the reliquary was treated as it was assembled to be carried into the Chapel. The procession began with a blessing by Fr Peter Newby, the chaplain of St Mary’s, and we followed the relics into the Chapel. As Gabriella in Year 7 said, “I liked seeing the relics being carried and how they were kept in such holy conditions.”

The Mass started with a beautiful hymn sung by the Gospel Choir of St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, which really set the joyful tone for the rest of Mass. Sze Wing in Year 8 said, “What I liked about this Mass was the music, they used the original prayer and made it into a song, all of our voices combined sounded beautiful.” Gabriella in Year 7 also appreciated the choir, “I also really enjoyed the powerful singing that the choir displayed.” As did Adele in Year 8,”I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere at the Mass. The actual Mass was amazing, the singing was the best part, I think.”

Caitlin in Year 10 read the first reading, so we were represented wonderfully by her during the Liturgy of the Word. Many of the pupils also learnt a great deal about St Bernadette from Fr Peter’s homily, as Caterina in Year 11 recalls, “where the priest talked about the bravery and perseverance of St Bernadette in convincing the priests to build a sanctuary for Mary.”

Angela in Year 7 also learnt a great deal from Fr Peter’s homily, “In the RE visit I learnt that St Bernadette was a young woman who had seen Mary, Mother of God. Mary told her she wanted a church built on that spot and she revealed some important secrets to Bernadette. Bernadette told these secrets to her parish priest and told him about what Mary wanted. He didn’t believe her but Bernadette wouldn’t give up.” Gabriella in Year 7 also told me she, “found the Mass itself very interesting because the priest’s homily was all about St Bernadette and I learnt about how she was very persistent.”

After Mass, the students were given a pilgrim bag which contained some votive candles for them to light and place at the mini grotto outside the Chapel and they could offer their own prayers during this ceremony. Sze Wing in Year 8 added that, “I liked the part of lighting the three candles and saying our prayers to God.” They also received rosary beads in their pilgrim pack and so, after lunch, Niamh in Year 10 asked Fr Peter to bless them, so he brought the girls back into the Chapel and blessed them with holy water from Lourdes.

Caterina in Year 11 connected the experience of pilgrimage to her academic studies, “This visit has helped me understand the importance that pilgrimage has on the life of a Catholic, and I was able to connect this to my prior knowledge from GCSE RE. I have extended my understanding through a fun and different experience, which will make recalling this useful story much easier for when I will sit my exam”.

Before heading back to school, the girls were taken to Radnor Gardens by the River Thames for a milkshake, or Earl Grey tea for the more discerning palette, as a ‘thank you’ from the school for all they do in supporting the school as Community and Faith Life Prefects.’

Categories: Faith Life Junior Priory Post Senior Sixth Form Whole School

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