Photo via Nicole Ervin
Through your life there are moments which are pivotal in your spiritual and personal growth. For me, one of those moments occurred during my pilgrimage to Lourdes, France on route to Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day (WYD) in 2011.
I had just finished up my freshman year of college, recently broken up with my second boyfriend, and yet my heart still was trying to get over my first love. No not my first boyfriend, a seminarian who I’d fallen for before starting college. Now looking back, I can see I was bitter at God, because I developed a deep friendship with a seminarian, but didn’t want to admit I was in love. I tried proving that I wasn’t in love by dating two other guys in college, both obviously not ending how I would have liked.
Even though my relationship with God wasn’t on great terms either, I had been preparing for this pilgrimage for over a year. Arrangements had been made, so I couldn’t pass up a trip to Fatima, Lourdes, and Madrid with a couple million young people from all over the world!
Before arriving at Lourdes, our group visited Fatima, Portugal and Burgos, Spain. Both places were wonderful sites to visit, and I definitely would love going back and visiting them again someday. However, they weren’t spiritually impacting my personal life.
Then we headed off to Lourdes, France. Here, millions of people journey to the miraculous spring where Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, appeared to St. Bernadette to be healed. Many come for physical healing, and while there are countless miracles of physical healing, most leave with a spiritual and emotional healing. Here, God started to break down the walls of my guarded and vulnerable hurting heart. I had to let myself admit that I was still attracted my seminarian friend. I loved his willingness to follow his call to priesthood, his laughter, and sense of service toward others. He exemplified what I wanted in a husband (besides the whole calling to the priesthood, that just complicates things). It wasn’t fair that God would let me fall for someone he called to serve His Bride, the Church. I knew I couldn’t ever be with him in a marriage, and that weighed heavy on my heart. God wanted me to let that all out, but I didn’t want to admit that I was hurting so badly. Earlier that day, I went to confession and my penance that night was to say, “Jesus, I trust in you” very slowly and intentionally ten times. I struggled to bring myself to say that and to actually mean it. I let it all out in tears, I needed to give Jesus my brokenness, and surrender to Him. The next morning, I went to the miraculous spring. I immediately felt this rush of peace and really did feel like I was being healed spiritually, my heart was on its way to becoming whole again. It was simply amazing.
Once we finally got to Madrid, I had little time to then reflect on what happened in Lourdes. There is so much craziness in the city, when you have two million young people roaming the streets. There is constant singing, dancing, festivals, and music. A true celebration!
The last night of WYD, the “night under the stars”, is still the most memorable part for me. Everyone walks miles to gather in some large open space outside, and sleep under the stars in just your sleeping bag, no tents or shelters. The pope will come and everyone will be silent for night time adoration. And it was dead silent. I couldn’t hear people talking, whispering, nor walking around. In the whole week before, amidst the noise and celebrations, everyone was able to be silent for adoration. Again, I felt that peace wash over me, and I promised God I wouldn’t go pushing for another boyfriend when I returned back home. I would practice on staying content with being single and strengthening my relationship with God.
When I returned home, I eventually started dating this guy who is now my husband. Our sixth month dating anniversary fell on Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast St. Faustina was instructed by Jesus to start. He wanted to have his image of his Divine Mercy with the inscription on the bottom, “Jesus I trust in You!”. God let me know that my trust in Him is worth the pain and struggle to get to that point of total surrender. He will take care of us, “Jesus, I trust in You!”.
Nicole Ervin is the owner of Blessed Destinations, a travel agency which focuses on Catholic pilgrimage sites in America. If you’re interested in going on a regional pilgrimage, please visit: www.blesseddestinationsusa.com