Saturday – TRAVEL DAY
This is a very exciting time for us – some of us will have just met the children for the first time, but from day one we bond as a family, ready for an amazing week together! When we arrive in Lourdes we have our first evening prayer together as a group. Each morning and evening we gather together to share our excitement, our worries and our intentions and offer them to the Lord. We open with a morning song and close on a goodnight song to thank the world for all our gifts and all we have to offer.
Sunday – EASTER SUNDAY MASS
The Easter Sunday mass is one of the favourite HCPT activities for many – to those who haven’t been before, it’s a real introduction to what HCPT is all about – being together and sharing with each other the gifts we have to offer.
In the morning we visit St. Bernadette’s house where we learn about how Lourdes became a famous Catholic pilgrimage, and about St. Bernadette’s life as a girl.
We also visit the domain and the grotto to light a candles and to say a little prayer for our HCPT families, our families at home and all of our loved ones.
We manage to sneak in an Easter egg hunt too – it isn’t Easter without one! It’s a packed day!
Monday – HCPT CONCERT
Yes, HCPT does concerts! This is something the the children and helpers look forward to throughout the day, but we won’t just sit around waiting for it! We’ve got a jam packed Monday too!
In the morning, we go to the Stations of the Cross and learn about the different events in Jesus’ life and why he’s so important to us. Before we go to the castle, we take another trip to the Grotto to reflect on what we learned at the stations, and to say our thanks for a wonderful start to our week.
Tuesday – GAVARNIE
On Tuesday morning we’re off to the mountains! This really is one incredible experience that we are so proud to be able to offer our children, many of whom won’t be able to have the opportunity. If nothing else, we might be able to go sledging in EASTER! It really doesn’t matter about your abilities; we will take everyone! Wheelchairs through the snow? Not a problem.
After the excitement of the morning we have some time for quiet, reflection and thanks at the Rosary Chapel, and we pay the Grotto another visit after lunch. We light a big candle with our names, our thanks and our prayers on it and watch it burn down through the week.
Most HCPT groups are based in the UK, but over the years many groups have formed and travelled from all over the globe. On Tuesday afternoon, we meet with other international groups in the Hotel Solitude to share some time together, being so faraway from each other throughout the year.
In the evening, we attend the torchlight procession with the other HCPT groups, as well as all of the other pilgrims who have travelled to Lourdes that week. The torchlight procession is a real sight to behold; thousands of people come together to celebrate life and become connected through prayer, music and light.
Wednesday – CHOO CHOO TRAIN
Half way through the week, and we are not about to run out of things to do! The Lourdes tourist train features in many of our children’s and helpers’ best memories of the trip, with plenty of opportunities to share the love and joy by singing at the top of our voices for all of Lourdes to hear.
This is also a good time yet again to reflect on our Lourdes adventure, so we pay the Grotto another visit to check up on our candle and give our thanks and offerings to the Virgin Mary.
And then we go shopping! Lourdes is a great place to find all sorts of weird and wonderful (well, definitely weird) souvenirs to take home as presents for our loved ones, or as a small token to remind us of the time that we’d had together. Window shopping in Lourdes is a truly unique experience.
Thursday – TRUST MASS
The Trust Mass encompasses so much of what HCPT is about: faith, fun and friendship. It’s an event full of love, laughter and singing where absolutely nobody is excluded. This may well be the only mass in the world where noise-making toys, face paints and and dancing are not only allowed but actively encouraged!
In the afternoon we like to take some time to write some postcards to send to people back home to let them know how we are doing and to say our thanks to those who have contributed to make this trip possible. Make sure you look out for them in the post!
We have a little tradition of lighting a great big candle (taller than Mike!) on the Thursday evening. Each child and helper of the group write down a prayer, a wish or some words of gratitude that they’d like to send out there to God and to the universe. We take it to the grotto together and say a prayer whilst we light the candle, which stays in Lourdes long after we’ve come back and reunited with our families.
After supper, what’s left to do but have a party! We get through a lot of fancy dress and face paints in Lourdes and this is an excellent opportunity to go all out and look ridiculous together! There’s always a much awaited dance and song performance from Group 37 at the Café Versailles where Pierre and his family welcomes us with ever open arms and join in the incredible fun.
Friday – BATHS
One of the biggest landmarks in Lourdes are the baths, where each pilgrim is welcomed to bathe and be blessed in the holy water running down from the mountains, into the river and through the grotto. It’s very cold, and completely optional. Many children and helpers who have experienced the bath find it a calming and reflective experience –
despite the cold and the odd phenomenon of being almost completely dry when you rise from the bath?! If you’re intrigued, this may be one you’d like to earmark for your trip!
And then we go to the Zoo! Because why not.
As it’s our last evening, much time is spent running around looking for rogue clothing and personal items, but this doesn’t take away from our last evening prayer. For our helpers this is a very rewarding time as they see each child and helper come to the end of the week as a family who has supported each other through the tiring and emotional moments as well the fun-filled laughter and moments of joy. Each year we come back from Lourdes a slightly different person, and in the best way possible.
Saturday – TRAVEL DAY
On our journey back we look forward to reuniting with our loved ones, but with new memories and life-long bonds with our HCPT families also .