The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes at the Seminary Hills has devotion, charm and attraction and draws the devotees from Nagpur and from different parts of Central India. This year’s feast is in some ways different from other years. The focus of the celebration was faith in Our Lord and devotion to Mother Mary. From the very beginning the devotees and pilgrims were guided to spend the time with God in prayer, prayer and devotion to Mother Mary and in spiritual preparation through confessions, healing and retreat. Right through the novenas there was the atmosphere of spirituality, devotion, renewal, transformation and prayer and less of artificial decorations and extravagance. There were six areas of interest during the feast.
1. The Eucharistic Celebrations: We had the Holy Mass, which is the culmination of the feast on the 10th of February 2013. People had been sufficiently prepared to participate in a most devout and prayerful way during the Holy Mass. The altar and the sanctuary had been beautifully prepared for the most important celebration during the feast. Maximum number of people had attended the Holy Mass and received abundance of blessings from God. The homily on that day was focused on faith, because of the Year of Faith. Along with the Solemn Eucharistic celebration, there were masses in different languages on the feast day, which was attended by many people. It was an occasion to be deeply involved and feel the closeness because of ones own language. The nine Saturdays of novena preparation which was started on the 15th of December and the nine days preceding the feast had the participation and animation by the different parishes of the city and those who could reach for the feast.
2. Confessions and Healing service: From the very beginning of the novena the thrust was to have spiritual preparation and renewal, and emotional, mental and physical healing. This was possible with the availability of many priests to exercise their priestly ministry. Every novena day before the mass there was confessions and after the mass there was healing and the people flocked to avail of these spiritual services. This culminated on the feast day as many priests were available for confession in different languages and at 2.45 P.M there was the Eucharistic Adoration and healing service. Most of the pilgrims have been waiting for this moment as the priest-animators preached and guided the people to be totally and prayerfully involved in the healing service. At the end the priests anointed all the people with holy oil and the Eucharistic Adoration came to an end with the Benediction. It was a moment of grace and blessings as many people experienced spiritual and physical healing and renewal and transformation. Special help and assistance was given to the physically and mentally challenged and differently abled and the senior pilgrims.
3. A replica of Our Lady of Lourdes: The model of the Grotto at Lourdes in France where Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette reminded the devotees of the important role of Mary in reaching out to everyone and showering her blessings upon everyone. The beautiful and appealing replica roused among the pilgrims devotion and reverence. The long queue of pilgrims was a sign of their eagerness to receive the blessings and they all had the opportunity to see the replica of the Grotto and then move on to touch the statue of Mother Mary for blessings.
4. The Palanquin and the Procession: Every pilgrim center attracts devotees to the shrine and to be part of the spiritual celebration. The Palanquin is one of those attractions of the grotto which was very beautifully and artistically decorated. Everyone looked with awe and admiration at the palanquin and then had the opportunity to express their devotion by offering flowers and others offerings. They were all given “PRASAD” and the devotees moved on to the next place of piety. After the Holy Mass in the evening the procession with the palanquin was attended by thousands of pilgrims and devotees. It was with lighted candle and the recitation of holy rosary. The procession was marked with prayer, peace and blessings and the fulfilling of their prayers and petitions.
5. The Preeti Bhoj: One of the big successes of the feast is when all participate in the festal lunch served to all. The preeti bhoj is given in the form of ‘prasad’. Everyone comes to experience the joy and togetherness during the feast and participate in the preeti bhoj. All those who had organized and prepared the Prasad did that with dedication, love and happiness and with the sole intention of bringing everyone together.
6. Free offering of all facilities:
1. To the Pilgrims: Free accommodation was provided to all the pilgrims who had come from out stations. Most of them had come unannounced, yet the maximum help and facilities were provided to them so that they could participate in all the celebrations as pilgrims. We had this year about 400 pilgrims overnight and on the day of the feast about 800 from out stations. This is a sign that the people of Central India have accepted the Grotto as a pilgrim center for all.
2. To the Food Stalls: The food stalls were put up by the seminarians from different religious houses. The proceeds from those stalls are used for social work and for the developmental purposes of the poor and needy and so all the facilities were provided for them freely.
3. To the Books stalls and Religious Articles Stalls: The religious institutions had put up many stalls to sell the religious books and religious articles. The stalls were put up for them and other facilities were provided for them freely so that through these the people could deepen their faith and also to spread reverence towards God and devotion towards Mother Mary.
4. To the Bicycle, Motor Cycle and Car Parking Stand: The parking was managed by the Anantnagar parish community. The proceeds are used for the purpose of uplifting the poor and the needy. So the needed help was freely provided for them and the necessary support was given to them.
5. To the Exhibition: Every year Jesus Youth organize an exhibition and this year too they had put up an exhibition to deepen and to strengthen the faith, through the detailed presentation of the life and sacrifice of Blessed Deva Sahayam Pillai. He is a lay person who was accepted the Catholic faith and was martyred as he offered his life for God.
6. To all the volunteers: Timely help and support was provided to all the volunteers and the choir members and those who assisted and helped on the day of the feast.
It is my privilege to be with and work with all the Mariam Bhakt, donors and volunteers. My gratitude to all the donors for their generosity and surely God would continue to bless all of them and their families and Mother Mary would have a special place for them. It was an opportunity for the priests, religious, devotees and pilgrims to show their commitment, generosity, dedication, cooperation and collaboration. In the process all those who have had any selfish interest and motives chose not to be part of the preparation, but participated in the celebration. It is through the generosity of all the devotees and donors who went out of their way to help and support through cash, kind, energy, time, effort, planning and guidance that the celebration of the feast was possible. It is most appropriate for all of us to acknowledge our special prayers and gratitude to all the donors and volunteers for their selfless and dedicated service to all the pilgrims to the grotto and to all the devotees of Mother Mary. May God bless you all.
Fr. Amirtha Raj, OP