Gerald’s Experience at Lourdes

We were delighted to receive this story from a visitor to the site and happy to reproduce it in his words.

Gerald Kingsley was on holiday in France during the summer of 1921, although he was a young child at the time. He found the experience of visiting Lourdes to be life-changing. Over the following years, Gerald would return to this place and with each visit he was able to grow a little more as a person.

We present his story here to you and thank Gerald for sharing with us…

I’ll completely understand if you find it a little hard to believe my story, after all I was a child at the time and now I am an old man with a lifetime of memories in my mind, jostling for space and fighting for clarity.

My first trip to Lourdes was a strange one, fraught with childlike fears and an equal amount of wonder. It had only been a few years since the end of World War I, a War which had taken my Father’s life and that of my older brother. In the aftermath of the carnage, my Mother insisted that we should both make the long journey from our home in quiet suburban Tennessee over to France to visit the unmarked graves of those, like my Father, that did not return from the conflict.

The War had shaken my Mother’s belief in God. Being of typical Southern stock, Christianity was as much in her blood as the ancient recipes for fried chicken and biscuits were hard wired into her brain. To say that religion was a major part of our family’s identity would almost certainly be an understatement, but the sheer loss of life that we suffered during such a short space of time was enough to all but snuff out my Mother’s previously unshakeable piety.

Our journey to Lourdes was as much a mourning pilgrimage as it was a last-ditch attempt to reclaim some vestige of my Mother’s faith. At only 8 years old, the journey to such a foreign land (one that had been the end of two immediate family members no less) filled me with dread, yet the resultant experience proved to be one that was both life and faith affirming.

I remember shaking as we’d set out on the cruise liner. The Great War was over, there were no longer German U-Boats picking off passenger liners, but the nature of the cross-pacific journey that my Mother had chosen to take was still fraught with paranoia and fear. I only remember leaving our beloved home country, the United States. The 80 days between our departure from hectic New York City and arrival at even more hectic (yet exotic) Paris were a blur.

On a mild, yet damp morning we found our way to the fields that had been the stage of bloody horrors just a few years before. Although it had been years since the last shot was fired, those grim churned fields had maintained their sense of dread and foreboding. There were no graves to visit; no memorial plaque marked the sacrifice our loved ones made. We left, hand in hand feeling unsatisfied – requiring a miracle in order to restore us.

We both piled onto a bus that could not have exceeded the speed of 50 mph for the entire 500-plus miles journey. Although the stressful journey from the States has been lost to my memory, I remember that 12-hour coach journey as if it were yesterday. Worn out and tearful, when we finally arrived at our villa in southern France we both found ourselves too tired to do anything but flop onto our beds and sleep for the remainder of the day.

I’d not expected to experience such warmth when I awoke in the evening. Much like our native Tennessee, Lourdes’ southern location afforded the area long balmy summer evenings and it was an evening such as this that my Mother and I made our pilgrimage to the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes

She held my hand loosely as we wandered languorously up the hill towards the Sanctuaires. As the sun slowly dipped behind the horizon, I was dimly aware of being joined by more fellow pilgrims. Although my Mother and I had made the journey by ourselves, we arrived at the Grottos surrounded by fellow mourners, pilgrims and believers. I’m not sure whether it was the long journey, the feeling of security or perhaps the knowledge of the apparitions themselves that did it; but I remember my Mother’s grip on my hand growing tighter as we approached the site.

We stood there in silence for a few minutes, with our new friends around us and a firmness entered her eyes. I didn’t need to ask but I could tell that her faith had returned to her, much like Helen Schucman that same summer, I was made aware of the transformative power of faith and it’s an experience that has stayed with me ever since.

If you’ve got your own story that relates to A Course in Miracles or the other works done by the practitioners of the movement then please send them into us via our ‘Share Your Thoughts‘ page.