Lourdes 2019 by Hannah Smith

8th August 2019

It is sometimes hard to be a believer that everything happens for a reason when some things seem like they are doing more damage than good at the time. But when I was offered the last minute opportunity to travel with Father Bob’s group to Lourdes this year I was shown a prime example of why things really do happen for a reason. The last 9 months or so I have badly struggled with my mental health, feeling as though I don’t know who I am anymore, when faced with the reality that I was now an adult and had to make adult decision by myself as I have started University and far away from home. I struggle a lot with who I am as a person, my beliefs, my interests, the kind of people I want to be associated with, where I was in relation to my faith and many things I expect a lot of people my age have felt, but all in one big concession that hit me hard. I’ve had days where I don’t want to leave my room, missing lectures and refusing to go out with my friends. I’ve had a lot of days of helplessness where I feel my life is going nowhere, whilst everyone around me is on the right path and seem to know exactly who they are and what they want from life. A song called ‘The Deepest Sighs The Frankest Shadows’ by Gang of Youths holds a lyric that I related to a lot. “And I am grieving the loss of myself, With frightening malaise” and that’s what this feeling is. It’s a loss of who I was and what I was comfortable with before. Suddenly I’m thrown into this deep end of a whole new level of life where some people can handle and adjust to that whilst some need time to adjust and I am definitely the latter.

During the reconciliation service in Lourdes, I always go to Father Martin as I like the familiarity of someone who knows me and what I’ve been through and experienced before. Whilst discussing my mental health he said that “we cannot avoid change otherwise we would never get anywhere.” He reassured me I was a lovely, kind person and I think hearing that, during a time in which I was confessing my sins, it hit me that I am only human and I’m never going to get it all right first time but I can’t let that scare me or make me feel weak, I need to use that to fuel me and my character and who I am as a person.

Therefore, Father Bobs groups put this all into perspective for me and showed me a whole new lease and way of life. Being surrounded by people who have been faced with many difficult challenges in their lives and to see them still love every second of life really throws into perspective the extent to which I’m really living my own life. One point in the pilgrimage that really proves my point was during the party Thursday night. I really wanted to have a dance on the dance floor but none of my friends wanted to. Maybe because they just wanted to sit and chill or were too embarrassed to dance. So I went to the people who I knew would always want to dance with me – Father Bobs group. Without hesitation they came with me and we danced for a good hour straight and they didn’t care what anyone else was doing or if anyone was watching them dance. They purely enjoyed the moment and did what they wanted do. They truly danced like no one was watching and so did I and it made me realise we need to live our lives like that no one else is watching. Just enjoy every moment yourself and do what makes you happy, even if your dance looks silly to other people. This is what proved to me that special needs people are exactly that – they’re special. They’re special because they live for every moment and find joy in everything they do. People like Marie who would always tell me everyday that she’d had a lovely day and enjoyed everything that we did. Or Sam and Patrick that constantly tried to make me laugh and smile by pretending to steal my nose or tell me I looked beautiful in the mornings. Each person had their own type of happiness and joy to let me in on and I will truly never be the same after meeting every single one of them.

One of the closest friendships I made this week was with Isaac. Every moment we spent together this week just made me smile and we were constantly told we were not a good pair to be together in mass due to us constantly laughing, probably why I ended up winning the Isaac Olympics (and I know he’s reading this probably giving me his look he always gives.) I enjoyed his company because he was just such a joy to be around and you need people like that in your life, people who just make you smile and not care about any of the bad things going on in life for a moment. It was really splendid (he’ll be laughing at that word too.) So I just want to say thank you to everyone in Bobs group for making My 4th year in Lourdes perfect and making me feel so welcome and comfortable, like I was part of a whole new family. And thank you for God answering my prayers and giving me the sign that I needed.

To finish, the quote we were given on the reconciliation service booklet is one that will remain my favourite forever now. The final part is what sticks with me the most – “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” To me this means always choose love, no matter how hard life may seem, and everything will work it’s way out from there. God bless x