alyssa july 22By Alyssa Bormes

It’s weird how a pilgrimage to one place can really take you someplace else. On March 31, 2005, we went to the grotto of St. Mary Magdalene in Sainte-Baume, France, getting there by way of train, bus, and cab – but the cab was a lot more like a carpool – and then by foot. To say the least, it was magnificent. Perhaps my favorite thing was the Altar with a statue of Mary Magdalene. There, she is forever in Adoration of Jesus in the tabernacle.

To get to the grotto you have to walk up a mountain; to get home, you have to walk down the mountain. Or – you could fall down the mountain – which is what happened to me. To be fair, I didn’t fall down the whole mountain, just one amazing wipe out that burst the bursa in my knee. I can’t really explain what that means, except that the pain is outrageous. This then led to some ugly limping to the cab/carpool, which got us to the bus. We changed our tickets to leave the next evening on the night train, as my knee begged to return to home base in Rome.

By 7:30am on April 2nd, I was enjoying breakfast with fellow students who asked if I were going to the Square – as in, St. Peter’s Square. “Why?” I asked. “Because the Holy Father is dying.”

It was a few minutes before 9am when we got to the Square; by 9:38pm we were with thousands of people in the Square, and millions around the world when Pope Saint John Paul II died. It was life changing.

I like to think that Mary Magdalene gave me a push to get back to the Eternal City for a spiritual pilgrimage that would change my life. It was quite a gift!

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!