Editor’s note: Father Zach Miller served as a chaplain on the 2018 Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage during the 60th Annual International Military Pilgrimage May 15 to 22.
The pilgrimage, for non-wounded, wounded, ill, or injured military personnel, is sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and the Knights of Columbus. “Military personnel, their designated caregivers and volunteers travel to the Marian shrine for a time of rest, vprayer and healing,” according to the Warriors to Lourdes website. “The retreat consists of a number of spiritual events, including special Masses, Faith and Fellowship Sessions, a Marian Procession, Adoration and Blessing of the Sick, a visit to the baths at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, and an International Opening Ceremony and Candlelight Vigil that draw tens of thousands of troops to the sacred shrine every year.”
Father Miller offered the following reflection in the midst of his pilgrimage, with an eye toward Memorial Day.
In 1959, after World War II, French soldiers and their chaplains made an invitation to the German soldiers and their chaplains to pray together. This year marks the 60th anniversary of this yearly pilgrimage. The theme for this year is “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth).
This yearly event has been expanded to militaries from around the world this pilgrimage has brought together people from America, Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Congo, Albania, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, France, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Korea, and many more homelands, brothers and sisters in arms from one nation to the next.
The healing that has taken place this week is healing for the world. Men and women standing side-by-side in true peace. Weapons have been placed aside. We stand in true camaraderie.
Nations that once were enemies stand together.
Each day we moved from the focus of new life, with healing from the waters of Lourdes, to the candlelight procession to pray the rosary together and for each other, to the final concluding Mass on the Feast of Pentecost. I cannot think of a better day to conclude this pilgrimage. Over 20,000 people of different nationalities and languages gathered to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the world in prayer. This Spirit has been present with us and has brought the world closer together.
I am very grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their support of this pilgrimage through their Warriors to Lourdes program. If it wasn’t for this program by the Knights, members of the U.S. military would not have the experience of this true peace.
To learn more, and to see more photos from the pilgrimage, visit warriorstolourdes.com.
Father Zach Miller is parochial vicar of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. Prior to ordination, he served in the Army National Guard for six years. He is a fourth-degree Knight and a member of Council #4746 in Vestal.
View photos and video from the pilgrimage by searching for #WarriorsToLourdes on social media