Thousands of Scottish Catholics have journeyed to Carfin Grotto to see the relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes this week.
The Scottish Catholic understands the week-long stay, which drew crowds of over 30,000 people, is the single largest Catholic event since the papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
The relics of St Bernadette had been touring across the UK, however Carfin Grotto was the only Scottish destination.
An all-night vigil in the presence of the relics took place on Saturday September 24, with Confession throughout the night.
Fr Jim Grant, the Guardian of Carfin Grotto, said it was in keeping with ‘Our Lady’s message to Bernadette, of which she was her messenger, which was the conversion of sinners.’
The Bishops of Scotland declared Carfin as the National Marian Shrine of Scotland on the Sunday. Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin said he was ‘honoured’ to attend the Centenary Mass on Sunday.
In his homily the day after, the archbishop said he found himself wondering at the Centenary Mass ‘why did Canon Taylor choose to build the Grotto here?’
“What we do know is, whatever inspired him was really the work of God, because over the past hundred years just think of the number of people who would have come here to this place to pray, to praise God, to ask favours, to pray for their families,” he said.
“And they find comfort here at the Grotto in Carfin.”
Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow said outside the Grotto that he was ‘amazed’ by the large turnout, calling it ‘inspiring’.
He also said the turnout itself shows that St Bernadette ‘is an inspiration to us all.’
“It shows you the power of the saints,” he said.
“It also shows you that God chooses the poor and the weak, not the rich and the powerful, because there’s Bernadette: a poor girl from a poor family, ill health herself, and yet she’s the one chosen for this great grace.”
The effort has been supported by a host of volunteers, among them Councillor Campbell, a parishioner at Holy Family, Mossend.
“The Saturday [before the Centenary Mass] was busy, but the Sunday was just something else. We were awaiting 35 buses and there were more,” she said.
Councillor Campbell said it was estimated that on the Sunday alone the Grotto had 6000 visitors.
She said that whilst volunteering involved doing ‘whatever you are needed to do’ at a particular moment, most of the effort went into managing the queues and waves of buses.
“I’ve been involved in things at Carfin but not helping in the same way. You really do get an awful lot out of it,” she said.
“You’re witnessing not just your own Faith but everyone else’s.”
Councillor Campbell said the popularity of the visit of St Therese of Lisieux’s relics in 2019 may have impacted the popularity of St Bernadette’s arrival at Carfin.
“I think people have learned from that,” she said.
“It’s beautiful and the people have really turned out from across the Motherwell Diocese.”
Photo by Paul McSherry.