For more than 100 years, the Rosary Pilgrimage has offered thousands of pilgrims each year the grace of a key moment in their life of prayer and faith, a rejuvenation in their spiritual life, a renewed fervour in their devotion to Our Lady. The 2023 Rosary pilgrimage takes place between Wednesday 4th and Saturday 7th October 2023.
15,000 pilgrims expected in Lourdes
This year 2023, Brother Hugues-François Rovarino, Dominican, and general director of the Rosary Pilgrimage, invites people to, “Come and build the Church!” What a great project in which to be a builder! Brother Hugues-François recalls how 11th February 1858 was the date when life changed. “For Bernadette, the “seer” of the Grotto, obviously, but also for her family, and for the thousands of people who would quickly constitute the crowds flocking to the Grotto of Massabielle. And among these crowds many sick people were accompanied, comforted, soothed or healed!
But for us, too! Yes, this date also changed our lives. For 115 years, the Pilgrims of the Rosary Pilgrimage have taken this path which descends towards the Grotto. They know how to trust in the Lady. They wait for what the Lady will transmit to them from the Lord. Like Bernadette.
They hope that, with the Lord’s grace received here, their hearts will grow and grow, expanded by charity.” (Fr. Hugues-François Rovarino, o.p. General Director)
THE 2023 THEME: COME BUILD THE CHURCH!
This invitation has its roots in the apparition of 2nd March 1858:
• There is a story to this sentence: the Lady may have formulated it as follows: “Go and tell the priests that people should come here in procession and to build a chapel”. For Bernadette, “the priests” meant the priest she feared. It took her two goes to tell him: in the morning she said, “People should come in procession.” Then, realising that she had omitted the other request, she returned at 7 p.m.to say: “the Lady also asked that a chapel be built.”
• We all know this sentence: “Go and tell the priests to build a chapel here, and that people should come here in procession”. But we are building more than a chapel. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, you wanted a chapel, here it is, it is the Church”, our Church.
Come! – Bernadette went to her priest to get us and others to come to the Lady and the Lord. This invitation issued or received is a grace.
Building… God is building a house, the Church, the Body of Christ, which is for everyone. Have we not witnessed this? Lourdes gives an “incredible image of the People of God… There, we can live out the Gospel in all its fullness” (fr. Adrien). So, “Come and build the Church!” with us!
Bernadette prayed to Mary while waiting for her to come
In Lourdes, Bernadette prayed the rosary while waiting for the apparition. Watching her pray, people wanted to pray like her and with her. More and more people gathered at the Grotto, reciting the “Hail Mary”. As if to underline the value of this prayer, Saint Bernadette emphasised that Our Lady wore a rosary during the apparitions. In Lourdes, the rosary is always prayed at the Grotto but also during the Torchlight Marian procession to which pilgrims flock every evening. The sanctuary of Lourdes remains an “astonishing school of prayer” (Benedict XVI).
Why do we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on 7th October?
The commemoration of the Virgin Mary of the Rosary began with an historical event. On 7th October 1571, the Christian coalition won a decisive battle over the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto. Pope Saint Pius V had previously asked that the Rosary be prayed everywhere for victory. In thanksgiving, he established a feast in honour of Our Lady of Victory which later became the feast of the Holy Rosary.
On this day, let us start praying our rosary again if we have forgotten it. Let’s say it with faith.
“The rosary is the prayer that has always accompanied me in life. It is also the prayer of the humble and the saints, the prayer of my heart” (Pope Francis).