Lourdes pilgrimage: A child's visions, a shrine to history
By Susan Spano
Los Angeles Times
Website article: http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_10428719
About 25 percent of American travelers are interested in taking a spiritually oriented vacation, a study last year by the U.S. Travel Industry Association showed. Increasingly, tour companies have begun offering religious cruises, package tours, pilgrimages and missionary travel.
The World Religious Travel Association, www.religioustravelassociation.com, a trade organization for the $18 billion-a-year faith travel industry, has an online directory to help religious travelers find the right tour company.
LOURDES, France - When Pope Benedict XVI visits this small town in the foothills of the French Pyrenees from Sept. 13 to 15, he will follow in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims who have come before him.
Like them, he will take Communion, drink from the holy spring and touch the stone at the base of a cliff by the Gave River, where heaven opened to a 14-year-old girl, known as Bernadette, who said she first saw the Virgin Mary there on Feb. 11, 1858. The pope will celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Bernadette's apparitions, with a pilgrim's heart full of yearning for transformation.
Six million people visit Lourdes every year, including 100,000 volunteers and 80,000 ill and disabled pilgrims A group walks along the Stations of the Cross behind the grotto. (Susan Spano/Los Angeles Times)seeking cures for their afflictions or the strength to endure them. Since 1858, about 6,800 people have reported being cured at St. Bernadette's grotto, though the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed only 67 of these to be miracles and hasn't recorded the number of spiritual healings said to have occurred at Lourdes.
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