Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It looked like any other military parade with bands playing, flags waving and thousands of men and women marching in colorful uniforms decorated with medals and ribbons. But instead of impressive displays of tanks and trucks, troops from dozens of nations fell in line behind religious banners, a large wooden cross and a rose-strewn statue of Mary. Candles and rosaries -- not weapons or rifles -- were held aloft in soldiers' hands. Such scenes were common during the 56th International Military Pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes May 16-18. More than 12,000 retired and active duty military personnel, their families and compatriots from 36 nations took part in the annual encounter to pray for peace and the spiritual healing of nations and individuals. A large number taking part, and given special prominence in the many processions, were those wounded in the line of duty. Among the military personnel tackling disabilities were about 60 retired or active duty U.S. soldiers together with another 60 caregivers, family members, chaplains and support staff. They were participating in the "Warriors to Lourdes" pilgrimage, sponsored by the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Knights of Columbus. The Knights covered the costs for the wounded personnel for the May 13-19 encounter of prayer, healing and friendship in Lourdes. "It's really been great for both those who have come with a petition in their heart -- suffering in some way, and those who are helping them," Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson told Catholic News Service.