Awakening at Lourdes: How An Unanswered Prayer Healed Our Family And Restored Our Faith is a new book by Accepting the Gift regular contributor Christy Wilkens. In it she shares how her pilgrimage to Lourdes with her husband and son Oscar brought her healing, although not in the way she expected. While not written exclusively for special needs parents, parents of children with disabilities will find much of Wilkens' story immediately relatable. Like many parents, Wilkens started writing to share update on her son's medical condition, and then simply to process the emotions surrounding his diagnosis and unique challenges.
"Before the pilgrimage, I was writing about pain, sadness, worry, and fear," Wilkens said. "When I was in Lourdes, I just kind of got in the habit of watching life; taking notes and observing. I went without a computer. I just took a notebook, where I had wrote down prayer intentions. At end of every day I would scribble anything that stuck out to me. I didn’t know where it was going, although it was clear from the beginning of Oscar's story that it wasn’t just for us, but I didn’t know where it was headed until much later. The moment when it started to become a book was when we came home and Oscar had had some healing and I had had spiritual healing. That was the story - death and resurrection. My task was to share the story as widely as possible."
Wilken's book takes you day by day through her familiy's weeklong trip through Lourdes, France as guests of the Knights of Malta. But unlike your typical travel memoir, it's not about the scenery or sight seeing, although there are beautiful sights everywhere. Instead you travel on a spiritual journey with Wilkens as she realizes that sometimes the miracles we receive don't always look exactly as we expect them to, and that the road to healing often has bumps along the way. I appreciated Wilken's honesty in sharing her struggles while in Lourdes and her admissions of frustration with God's plan at times. From the improvements in Oscar's condition that Wilkens almost missed, to a breaking down of walls that had grown up between herself and her husband following their son's diagnosis, the awakening at Lourdes that Wilkens writes about isn't the dramatic "making the lame to walk and blind to see", but it's just as powerful with just as long reaching affects.
"There's an underlying layer of peace that wasn't there before and a general sense of acceptance and surrender," Wilkens said of her familiy's life since their return from Lourdes. "I have this confidence now that God is with us in the mess. Whatever happens we can turn our eyes and prayers to Him. There’s still peace. At the end of the day, there’s still a confidence in the mercy of God."
Wilkins paints a vivid picture of Lourdes the town and the shrine, and of the people who gather there from all over the world. Those who come to Lourdes as guests, or malades, of the Order of Malta become part of a special pilgrimage where for a week, their needs are met by a team of volunteers in addition to their primary caregivers. This creates a unique bond between pilgrims and adds to the growth and healing.
"You're strangers at the beginning, and are like family by the end," Wilkens said. "You shared something intimate with each other, like between Christ and the Blessed Mother. [Lourdes] is this crucible where people come together. It's capable of effecting long lasting change. We were there with Oscar to be served, and the volunters are there to serve. If we didn’t let them do that, then they didn’t get the pilgrimage they signed up for. It's only through working together that the whole body becomes manifest."
Awakening At Lourdes is a engaging book for all those seeking more proof that God can manifest His power through any and all means necessary, even when we are disbelieving or feel unworthy of His mercy.