The cult of the Virgin of Lourdes is followed by many in Enna, and every year in May a train loaded with pilgrims, volunteers, and seriously ill people travels to Lourdes. It is called the White Train. Lourdes is a place for pilgrimages for Catholics from all over the world, and every year around five million visit the cave where the apparitions happened.
The journey from Enna to Lourdes takes forty-eight hours, as the White Train stops continuously to give precedence to regular trains. The volunteer’s main task is serving meals in the train and pushing the wheelchairs once arriving in Lourdes.
During my staying in Lourdes, I wanted to do my very best to serve the sick people that I looked after. One afternoon I took a sick lady from the hospital courtyard. She was around sixty years old and dressed in black.
“Where would you like me to take you?” I asked.
“I want to go shopping!” she answered.
The sick lady wanted to buy a small golden medal, so we went around many shops to find the item she liked. After two hours of shopping, she found the one she wanted. Afterwards, she wanted me to take her to the top of the hill, as she wanted to cover the Stations of the Cross. At last, after a long day of walking, I took her back to the hospital.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital courtyard, the sick lady got up from the wheelchair and walked at a brisk pace. I looked at her with a slight annoyance. Why had she asked me to carry her around when she was able to walk by herself? But suddenly the lady started crying out, “It is a miracle! A miracle! I couldn’t walk before. That volunteer can testify to it,” she said, pointing to me.
A few people gathered around me. “Is it true?” one of them asked.
“It was really a miracle?” he insisted.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I can only say that the lady was already sitting in the wheelchair when I took her out to the shops. Then I took her to the hill where the Stations of the Cross are, but I cannot say if she was able to walk before I met her.”
“Okay, thank you,” said the man who had questioned me, and soon the small crowd of onlookers dispersed.
Many years went by, and that episode seemed to have fallen into oblivion, but one day it came to mind for some reason. I wondered why that sick lady would have deceived me, pretending to have been miraculously cured when she was already in good health. What was the point?
I decided that there had to be a rational explanation. Maybe the old lady was lazy and didn’t want to walk by herself. Perhaps she took advantage of me to stroll around Lourdes while sitting comfortably in the wheelchair. Nevertheless, my conjecture collided with the fact that the lady had been admitted to the hospital in Lourdes.
If my memory serves me right, there were two hospitals for sick people at that time in Lourdes, one bigger and one smaller. Neither of them admitted patients that were not disabled. There should be medical records certifying her disability. Being wise after the event, at that time I was very shallow. I should have investigated the matter in depth.
However, if she is still in my mind after so many years, perhaps something supernatural really did happen that afternoon in Lourdes.
This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind