"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where does my help come from?

The second leg of our journey home brought us to Lourdes, nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains in the south of France not too far from the Spanish border, to visit Florence’s cousin, Linda, and her husband, Patrice. Total travel time on Monday from Geneva to Lourdes took us 10 hours and 45 minutes (including 2 train changes), so it was a long day. Patrice and Linda had warm food waiting for us at the end of the line, and we soon discovered that Patrice is a chef! You can imagine that we’ve been enjoying some wonderful meals during our stay in Lourdes, not to mention some interesting conversations on politics and religion. Lourdes is world renown as a place of pilgrimage for those of the Catholic faith. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette at a grotto located near the river that runs through town 14 times. Mary instructed the girl to build a fountain, purify herself in the waters, and tell the people to come and do likewise. Later, they were to build a place of worship where people could come and bring those with illness to be prayed for. Today, the town of Lourdes receives around 8 million pilgrims each year from all over the world. There are 3 main basilicas that are beautifully made and during the height of pilgrim season, full of worshippers.
lourdes parish and town small
main basilisks in lourdes small
Because of the intense focus on the pilgrimages made to Lourdes, it’s often easy to miss some of the other points of interest in town. The Pyrenees, though not quite as high as the Alps, are still quite beautiful, and the town offers some great views of the mountain range. There is also a castle built on the highest hill in the middle of town. The story is that during the Crusades, King Charlemagne chased the Arabs from Spain to this castle where he found it impossible to enter and had to lay siege on them. Near the end, both armies were near starvation, when an eagle flying overhead dropped a fish it was carrying in its mouth onto the castle grounds. The leader of the Arab band took the fish and pinned it to a note he sent to Charlemagne saying that they still had plenty of food and would outlast him. Thus, Charlemagne decided to pursue a treaty rather than completely obliterate the Arabs. The treaty, though, did put the lands under Charlemagne’s dominion and under the influence of the Catholic church.
pyrenees small
chateau de lourdes small
On Friday we decided to visit a nearby town called Pau. Pau is known for its milder climate and “vacation homes” built by the English in times past. It is also the site of King Henri IV’s main castle. Henri IV reigned in the late 1500s. We were shocked to learn that, while he only ever recognized 14 children, he had as many as 72! Apparently, aside from the 2 wives he took (at different times), he had as many as 56 mistresses among the noblewomen! Also shocking was the news that he only ever bathed once in his whole life! There was a common belief during his time that demons could possess you if you submerged yourself in water, so he never bathed! And finally, we also learned that during his time, because of the cold winter nights, it was common, when visiting a lord, to share his bed, along with his wife and children! Later on in history, the same castle was used by Napoleon III, and more often by his wife, Empress Josephine, who was Spanish and preferred this southern location close to her home country. It seems like so long ago, but our tour guide reminded us that it’s only really been 4 generations since that time. It sure made the castle walls come a bit more “alive” for us!
chateau henri IV small
We missed celebrating Thanksgiving this year, though we did enjoy some roast chicken and potatoes on Thursday evening with our hosts and explained the Thanksgiving story to them. With no Thanksgiving holiday in France, the big burst of Christmas preparations that generally happen the weekend afterwards are also missing, so we are still feeling a bit far off from Christmas! This afternoon we catch the train to Grenoble to visit more missionary friends who spent time with us in Burkina Faso. We are so blessed to experience the fellowship of believers on an international level!

1 comment:

  1. Flo,
    Thanks for the history. Thru your travels I may take on another trip. When you get to Ireland, could you post a pic of a bay or fishing village with some boats?