I’m just back from Lourdes, the shrine to the Virgin Mary in the south of France. It’s a place of extraordinary healing.
The medical healings are well-documented. I was flicking through a magazine about the 67 ‘canonical’ cures over the last 150 years – those that have been officially recognised by the hard-nosed medical panel that sifts through the scientific evidence. I’m sure you can look them up on the internet somewhere.
I was struck this year by what you might call the ‘inter-generational healing’ that takes place in Lourdes. You see young people on pilgrimage, ordinary teenagers, spending time with the elderly. Doing ordinary things together – shopping, eating, drinking, partying, praying. Just hanging out together. The young not thinking that the elderly are boring or irrelevant. The elderly not feeling threatened or marginalised by the young. Appreciating each other for who they are, and growing in themselves through the process.
And this isn’t just an individual teenager showing devotion to a loved grandparent in the privacy of the parental home, which is not uncommon. It’s taking place in public, and it’s shared with their peers.
It makes you realise how strange most of Western society is, where young people and the elderly inhabit completely different territories, like two tribes living within the boundaries established in long forgotten wars.
It makes you wonder what is lost when different generations become alienated from each other, and what it would take to bring the strangeness of this inter-generational healing to the normality of a British high street.