Beneath a canopy of vaulting arches and gothic revival spires, I recently spent three days and two nights in silent retreat at St Gildard’s Convent in Nevers, France, also known as Espace Bernadette (http://www.sainte-bernadette-nevers.com/). Sharing this experience through the lens of this week’s Gospel, sheds light on the healing power of sacred space. The words, “gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” summarizes perfectly why I went and what i experienced at Nevers.
Today, many convent environments are changing. St Gildard’s Convent is a rich architectural heritage building that once held large numbers of religious women (200) and now accommodates a small population of nuns (4) while welcoming an increasing number of men and women laity.
Nevers is home to the final resting place for Bernadette Soubirous. You can read about her life and the miracle of Lourdes (where 3 million people come each year for healing, prayer or even just curiosity) at http://www.lourdes-france.org. Bernadette was the first photographed saint which made her extremely popular. Today, her body rests behind glass in the main chapel.
I sat in prayerful silence on the pew just in front of her body, witnessing a steady flow of faithful men, women and children approaching, kneeling in reverence, and out pouring their hearts in prayer.
My stay coincided with the celebration of the feast day for Mary’s Assumption. This is a big holiday in France. Mass at the convent was packed tight with all sorts of people. At lunchtime, a wonderful mix of people gathered in the dining room. Together, we toasted to our faith and shared a lovely meal together (one of the resident sisters is seated at the left).
If convents are the new spiritual resorts, then Espace Bernadette at St. Gildard’s Convent in Nevers, France, is a 5 star vacation for the soul.
September 1, 2011 6 Comments