There are many different opportunities for prayer in Lourdes. In many ways the whole pilgrimage is a prayer. One of my favourite times is down by the grotto late at night, listening to God in the silence and watching Mary as she helps us to focus our eyes on Jesus.
It is these secret, discreet, isolated moments of quiet prayer, alongside the more formal times of liturgy together as a group that make sense of a pilgrimage. In August 2012 in Lourdes, Bishop Peter spoke of the transforming nature of a pilgrimage. We all depart the pilgrimage to Lourdes transformed in some way - it is these glimpses of Jesus through prayer that lead to my own transformation.
It is powerful to spend time quietly reflecting what God is asking of us, thanking Him for the blessings He has given us and asking him to grant our petitions in the midst of a busy town packed with tourists and pilgrims from across Europe and beyond.
Lourdes is a place of extremes; noise and silence, tacky and beautiful, old and new, giving of yourself and recieving from others.
Through these extremes, I believe God hears us and answers our prayers.
Our challenge is to take the time to pray. To see through the distractions of other people, the cafe's, the tourist sites, serving others, the beauty of the surrounding mountains and look deep into the heart of Jesus and offer him our whole life.