It takes courage to step beyond our boundaries, leave our comfort zone, and go into unknown territory. In May 1990, two ladies from the CASA organisation visited my home in Leitrim and invited me to travel with CASA to Lourdes. I am a man, disabled because of Motor Neurone Disease. The ladies asked me to walk away from the comfort zone of my family, and spend five days with a stranger who would care for me. I really struggled with this idea, but in the end, their gentle persuasive powers won over my confidence, and I agreed with reluctance, to travel with CASA to Lourdes.
Twenty four years later, I am very privileged to say that I am still travelling to Lourdes with CASA, still getting so much from each pilgrimage.
Each year I find myself sitting at Mass, attentively listening to the story of Bernadette, and each time the CASA Priest tells it with so much meaning, making me feel that I am hearing it for the first time. Each year Our Lady welcomes me to Lourdes, fills my life with so much contentment and happiness. Lourdes is my fountain of love which I take so much pleasure in visiting each year and I treasure so much the moments spent there. As I walk around the beautiful old rugged rocks of the Grotto, and feel the holy water bless my body, I give thanks for all that I have.
Down through the years, I have had many of CASA’s well trained carers look after me. So many everlasting bonds of friendships have been created in this Blessed place. Strangers who I met at an airport have become my lifelong friends. I have not received any physical cure for my disease. I have received something much greater, the gift of acceptance and a deep feeling of happiness which dwells within.
I am no longer dying from Motor Neurone Disease; rather I am living with it. Now I don’t pray for a cure in Lourdes, I choose to pray for the continuation of this acceptance. Our Lady of Lourdes gives me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change.
No words on paper can ever adequately explain the love, affection, and gratitude that I feel towards this wonderful Association – C.A.S.A., and especially for the two ladies who extended the hand of friendship and support to me all those 24 years ago. Bless you! You wonderful people.