In New Wine Wednesday

By Alyssa Bormes

It was May 1982, and I didn’t exactly have a date to the prom, which was really called a dinner dance, which meant you could still go if you didn’t have a date. Another friend who was dateless came to my house, and my dad drove the two of us to the Ward Hotel in Aberdeen, South Dakota. It was only a 1.3-mile drive – I just checked it on the Internet – but it was a ride I’ll never forget.

My father, who was a very quiet man and usually content to let his daughter chat with her friend, told us a story about his pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. I have no idea what prompted the telling of the story, but my friend and I were engrossed.

He was living in Italy for six months after having left the seminary before taking his diaconate vows and was discerning his vocation. He would travel as he was able, and went to different pilgrimage sites – I’ll tell you about others of them another time. This time he was on the night train; it was 1950, so the cheapest seat was a wooden bench, which was just long enough for him to uncomfortably recline.

The train stopped at some little town in the middle of the night, and four really poor people climbed aboard. My father said that their clothes were absolutely tattered, the people smelled, one man had no arms, and my father hoped they wouldn’t sit near him, but there wasn’t another spot.

Once in Lourdes, my father said his mood was dark from not being able to sleep on the train; he walked away from his four bench mates with a sense of superiority. Even though my father was very poor at the time, at least he wasn’t that poor and smelly. He took consolation in knowing he would never have to see the four travelers again.

Photo Courtesy, Alyssa Bormes

After a few hours, my father made his way to the pilgrimage site, and it seems Our Lady had a healing meant just for him. As he neared the grotto, he saw the four people from the train. They were all participating in the same thing, but it was the man with no arms that especially struck my father’s heart. The armless man had been fitted with a harness, which allowed him to carry cots with the infirm to the healing water of the baths.

My dad said it was then that he was healed. He had wrongly judged these people, and he knew then that he would never judge another person in his life without knowing them. Each of my siblings recalls my father saying, “People are people, and vice versa,” and each of us can attest that he lived it.

My dad may well have driven me to the dance, but really his witness drove me the first 1.3-mile leg of my 4,535-mile trip to Lourdes in 2005.

Photo Courtesy – Alyssa Bornes

This Monday, February 11th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Go ahead and ask Her for a healing, especially for one you don’t even know that you need. And then settle in for the surprise.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

Showing 13 comments
  • Gwen
    Reply

    Fathers are so wonderful and teach us so many things that last with a lifetime! Thank you!

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      You’re welcome! Them memory is still so vivid today – what a gift!

  • Alyssa Bormes
    Reply

    You’re welcome! The memory is still so vivid today – what a gift!

  • Kitty Cleveland
    Reply

    Beautiful story and lesson, Alyssa! Thank you, friend!

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      Ah – you are the best Kitty! Thank you!

  • Donna Richardson
    Reply

    After debating politics and trying to come to terms with the horrors of the last few weeks, in the laws passed and planned, my view of the world has soured. I see myself in some of your father’s thoughts. The change in his heart has given me hope. Thank you for this beautiful testament.

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      Donna – thank you for such a beautiful comment – you have given us a beautiful insight!

  • Loree Heinkel
    Reply

    Beautiful! Thank you for the reminder! Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      Amen!

  • Lara Pinto
    Reply

    Thank you for your beautiful story. My 82 year old mother is having a pretty big surgery on a hiatal hernia on Monday February 11. I will be praying for a complete and awesome healing!

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      I will include her in my prayers as well.

  • Elizabeth Tomlin
    Reply

    Alyssa, This is beautiful. I have never been to Lourdes, but your story is now part of the mileage on my pilgrimage as well. Thank you for sharing.

    • Alyssa Bormes
      Reply

      Fantastic! Get your bags packed – Our Lady is calling you!

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