The 14-year-old miller’s daughter Bernadette Soubirous grew up in Lourdes at the foot of the French Pyrenees. On 11 February 1858, she was looking for firewood in the forest and passed a cave. At the entrance to the cave stood a beautiful woman and from then on Bernadette visited her regularly because, according to her, she was the Virgin Mary. In Bernadette’s ninth apparition (9/18), Mary told her to eat grass, where a spring with healing properties then sprang up – a miracle.
Today, Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage where believers from all over the world go – 5 million visitors every year. After Paris, it is the most visited place in France. And we, we experienced our own miracles in this unusual place.
We? This is YoungCaritas Europe: young workers, volunteers and interested people from different parts of Europe and the world who came together in Lourdes from 24 to 29 August 2021 to talk and reflect on dreams. Dreams, big dreams, big common dreams – dreams of what our world should look like in the future, a vision for a Europe in solidarity, or better a world in solidarity?
In workshops we worked out project ideas together, discussed what the world should ideally look like in the future and how we can encourage other people to dream, because aren’t we also afraid that the thought of utopia makes the present all the more difficult to bear? I don’t think so, because people need miracles in life, they need dreams and positive goals to take action themselves. As we all know, we don’t get anywhere with “I can’t change anything anyway” attitudes. And this world is crying out for change.
We also dealt with the visions for Europe in a playful way, e.g. in the form of a scavenger hunt, and came into contact with the place and its visitors.
In other workshops we got the chance to think about our commitment and to exchange ideas with the other committed people: What creates a sense of belonging, what experiences have I gained with my commitment, what can I carry forward into the world… ?
My personal highlight of the five days together was just that: the exchange. To know what other people achieve enormously, how they commit themselves to others and help, how they have enough strength and joy despite their own hard setbacks, all this and much more, truly brings dreams closer to reality. Seeing the amount of energetic and strong, dear, young people was dreamlike.
Some of these people told me parts of their life stories and I am grateful to each and every one of them – their strength, despite all the obstacles in life, inspires me.
Finally, the cohesion of the whole group was shown when climbing a mountain, where each person helped and supported each other – once at the top you realised the beauty of this world and how important cohesion is.
A world where people live together peacefully regardless of their origin, gender, sexuality or faith, where people help and support others, where people show openness, tolerance and love – doesn’t that sound like a perfect world? We were able to experience it for five days – how wonder-ful.
Participant from Germany