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Military Bishop Addresses American Pilgrims in Lourdes


American veterans, active duty servicemen and women, and volunteers were urged by Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, to treasure the gift of time. Bishop Spencer celebrated Mass for American pilgrims at the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, France, on Friday, May 15.

Nearly 200 military veterans, active service personnel and volunteers were in attendance, many of whom were sponsored through the Archdiocese for the Military Services/Knights of Columbus Warriors to Lourdes Program.

In his homily, Bishop Spencer, who also serves as the episcopal vicar for Europe and Asia, explained the significance of the site for the veterans: “Lourdes has been a place of pilgrimage for over a hundred years. According to the French Historical Commission, members of the French military started going to Lourdes during WWII to give thanks to the Blessed Mother for prayers answered and to pray for peace. The actual beginning of the military pilgrimage as it is known today has been attributed to a gathering in Lourdes on Dec. 10, 1944. … The first official military pilgrimage took place in 1958, the year of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.”

He also reminded the pilgrims, many of whom were wounded after serving in combat and military duty, that “the ability to be joyful in the midst of adversity is one of the most attractive traits a person can have.”

“Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life. … So, what will you do with your next 86,400 seconds?” the bishop asked. “Think about that, and always think of this: Enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think.”

“Time is our most precious treasure because it is limited. We can produce more wealth; but we cannot produce more time. When we give someone our time — as we should since we all are our brother’s keepers — we actually give a portion of our life that we will never take back. Our time is our life! The best gift you can give to the Lord these next few days is your time. … May we all have the wisdom to give time and to share time with the Lord and with one another. My friends, let us rise and lift up our hearts as we journey in pilgrimage here in Lourdes, to heed our Blessed Mother's call to conversion of heart so that the world might be a better place for all.”

In addition to the opening Mass, the American pilgrims will join veterans from other countries at various ceremonies, prayer services, military band concerts and processions.