A Pilgrimage Of Miracles


In the south of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains lies the village of Lourdes, made famous by the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous.

Annually over six-million pilgrims make their way to Lourdes to experience the healing waters. Mike and I visited Lourdes for the first time about 15 years ago. Mike was on a personal mission to discover his roots in Ciriza, Spain. I wanted to visit Lourdes as well.

Ciriza, Spain

We arrived early in Pamplona and, as soon as we checked into the hotel, we inquired about hiring a private tour guide. It is never by coincidence how God arranges these encounters so this is how we first met our tour guide Maria (Tota). Tota lives in Pamplona, but she and her family own a home in the village of Ciriza, where Mike’s family originated!

Ciriza’s one main street leads directly to San Miguel Catholic Church.  On our way to visit the church we noticed stone tiles adorned with cherries (cerezas in Spanish) as part of the cobble stone street. I could not help but wonder if perhaps his last name was originally Cereza, and in times past morphed into Ciriza.

San Miguel Catholic Church
The Baptismal Font

With Tota’s connections, we were privileged to have the sanctuary opened for us by her good friend.  The key to the San Miguel Church was ornately large; it had to be to match the humongous keyhole to open the medieval doors. As we passed through the oversized wooden doors, we were in awe of the simple, unscathed beauty of this tiny church.  We walked to the second level, breathed in the holiness. and prayed for our loved ones.  Visually scanning all my sight could take in, I imagined Mike’s grandfather being baptized in the  old stone baptismal font. Yes, Mike’s beautiful Catholic roots were being unveiled right before our eyes.

In the  village’s recreational room, casually hanging on the wall, is the Ciriza Coat of Arms, Mike took several photos with his camera,  but he accidentally deleted them. Cell phones were not yet equipped with cameras, so we used  hand-held cameras.


Once a year Pamplona host the San Fermin Festival, which features the Running of the Bulls. On the path of the Running of the Bulls is an icon of San Fermin permanently set in the old city walls. Mike’s father Miguel was an honest to goodness bullfighter.

San Fernin

Traditionally before the running starts,  participants ask the saint’s protection by touching his statue. San Fermin, who was the first bishop of Pamplona, is the patron saint of Pamplona and Navarre, Spain.

Mike’s father. Miguel, was a bullfighter who wanted his son to experience the sport.  As a young boy Mike would travel with his father to Spain to watch the popular bullfighting matches.

We ate wonderful paella and for several days strolled through Pamplona, where Ernest Hemingway wrote  his 1926 novel  “The Sun Also Rises.”


Mike's father Miguel Jorge Ciriza
Mike’s father Miguel Jorge Ciriza

Lourdes, France

We took a World War II train to France. This train, which was wider than the more modern ones creaked at every turn. We passed through the Pyrenees Mountains, countless rivers, and the Bordeaux countryside, making whistle stops in Toulouse and other quaint villages. I was agitated with Mike because he purchased a straw hat in Madrid and insisted on wearing it the entire time. Mike is a baseball cap type of guy and this new fashion was driving me crazy. He finally took the hat off and placed it on the overhang of the train for safekeeping. He was sad to discover that he left his hat on the train, but I quietly thanked the Lord for His intervention. From the train we caught a taxi to our hotel in Lourdes.

Our  hotel was in the center of town. We were greeted by a friendly English woman who told us where to eat and where to purchase candles. Mike was looking around and seemed distracted. I asked, “What’s the matter with you?” With a forlorn look he answered, “This is where my mother wanted to come when she got sick.” So this trip was turning out to be a healing for Mike.

The Nightly Procession

As instructed by the English woman, we ate at Alexandra’s. The French meal did not disappoint; it was delicious. We hurried back to the hotel to purchase the candles. I was uncertain as to why we needed candles in the first place, so I asked the English lady, “What are we to do with these candles?” She threw her head back and with a sweet chuckle said, “Follow the crowd.”

It was about 9:oo p.m. when the crowd of people came from all areas of the village, walking down the hilly streets and into the main town square. To our amazement we came upon the most beautiful sight:  the Basilica, Our Lady of the Rosary. This Romanesque-style cathedral is one of the largest in the world; nothing compares to its beauty.

We were awkward tourists waiting for a signal when the French Police started yelling and pushing the crowd to start moving toward the town square. People in gurneys and wheelchairs joined the rest of the group. Almost as if  from heaven, everyone’s candles were lit in a few seconds. The procession started with the singing of Ave Maria. When the sound of the Blessed Mother’s name was heard, the candles were held up high simultaneously. It was a chilly October night that will always remain in my heart.



The Grotto

Mike, who  had put off surgery to repair a torn meniscus until we returned from the trip, was walking with a sturdy brace to support his injury. The following day was our visit to the Grotto. As we passed a city bench Mike instructed me to wait there for him if I got out first or vice versa. It took about an hour to finally reach the end of the Grotto line, but only a few minutes to get dunked in the holy waters of Lourdes. With volunteers helping you get undressed, every stitch of clothing is removed and you’re wrapped in a sheet. Two women are assigned to assist you into the sacred pool of water. In broken English you’re asked to say your prayers. I was a nervous wreck, but remembered my intentions were for my Mother, my sister Myra and brother George; all were experiencingserious health issues.

The water was ice cold, but something very unusual happened once I got out. With the aid of other volunteers we quickly dressed.  I was completely dry in just a few seconds, including my hair. The waters of Lourdes gave me a sense of spiritual cleansing with a feeling of total peace.

I passed the bench where Mike expected me to meet him and decided to go shopping for rosaries. By the time Mike finished I was filling an empty 32-ounce bottle with holy waters. He immediately announced, “You don’t expect to carry the water in my suitcase, do you?” “Nope! No problem, I’ll carry it!”

Mike’s Secret Miracle

We had been home three weeks when I accidentally discovered that Mike had experienced a miracle in Lourdes. He came home from golfing and asked for some of “that water.” I responded,”What water?” Mike said he wanted the water from Lourdes. I sharply said, “No! you did not help me carry it, and what do you need it for anyway?” He said he wanted to share it with his friend who had a bad knee. My godly response was, “I’m not wasting the water on your friends.” Then Mike shared with me that he had been completely healed of  the torn meniscus. This was how I found out! I reminded Mike that he had to give glory to God for his healing, then  handed him the water for his friend.

My Prayer

Lord, thank You for Mike’s healing. I pray for all who need a miracle, especially those who do not know how to pray. Lord teach them Your simple prayer: “Jesus I trust in You!” Amen.

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