In 2002 I was able to visit Lourdes with a group of Maltese pilgrims. I celebrated Mass for them and visited many landmarks, both in Lourdes itself and in the outskirts. But the thing that impressed me the most is the holiness and sacredness of the entire place. Yes, there were of course hotels and restaurants, but every shop and souvenir stand sold only religious articles, and absolutely nothing else. And once you enter the territory of Lourdes, you feel like you really entered a sanctuary, and you have the feeling that you were in a church, even with thousands of other pilgrims around. It was a very special time for me and one really felt the presence of the Blessed Mother with you wherever you went. Of course we participated in the aux flambeaux procession in the evening and I even led a decade of the Rosary. Today we commemorate the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes to the young girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1854. It took the church a few years to declare the apparitions as truly authentic, and since then over 70 miracles have taken place to people visiting Lourdes, the tiny place nestled between Spain and France at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains.