The Shrines of Southern France11 days
Your trip includes
- Round-trip airfare
- All airport taxes & fuel surcharges
- Centrally located hotels: (or similar)
- ~ 3 nights: Chapelle et Parc, Lourdes, France
- ~ 1 night: Mercure Carcassonne La Cite, Carcassonne
- ~ 1 night: Novotel Avignon Center, Avignon
- ~ 2 nights: Couvent Royal, Saint-Maximum-La-Sainte-Baume
- ~ 2 nights: Mercure Cannes Croisette Beach, Cannes
- Breakfast and Dinner daily
- Wine with dinners
- Assistance of local guide throughout
- Transfers as per itinerary
- Sightseeing and admissions fees as per itinerary
- Catholic Priest available for Spiritual Direction
- Mass daily & Spiritual activities
- Luggage handling (1 piece per person)
- Flight bag & portfolio of all travel documents
- Lunches, Tips to your guide & driver.
Day 1, Depart for Lourdes
Make your way to your local airport, where you will board your overnight flight(s). Your meals will be served on board.
Day 2, Arrive Lourdes
Upon arriving at Pau or Toulouse airport, make your way to the baggage claim area and collect your luggage. Proceed to the arrival's hall, where you will be greeted by your tour guide and/or driver. You will embark on a scenic drive to Lourdes. Check-in to your hotel, then relax or explore before dinner. Following dinner, you will have free time to pray the Rosary and to attend the candlelight procession (April-October only), guided by the Most Holy Rosary. Following this prayerful experience, you will return to your hotel for an overnight.
Day 3 & 4, Lourdes
Over the next two days, you will stay in a small town, nestled within the Pyrenees Mountains. During your time in Lourdes, you will pray and meditate at a site of Our Lady's apparitions. Our Lady first appeared to Bernadette in 1858, and announced herself as "The Immaculate Conception", near the Grotto of Massabielle. During the first two apparitions, little Bernadette prayed the Rosary with Our Lady and left without any exchange of words. During the following apparitions, Our Lady emphasized God's love for us, penance and the necessity of performing acts of penance for sinners. Throughout your time in Lourdes, you will have the opportunity to attend Mass at the Grotto, where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, watch a video presentation that explains in detail, the story of Lourdes, drink water from the miraculous spring that has healed many and submerge yourself in the healing baths. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to experience Christ's unconditional love, as you meditate upon the "life size" Stations of the Cross that overlook the Grotto of Massabielle. Also in Lourdes, you will walk in and meditate upon the footsteps of St. Bernadette. Your group will have the opportunity to see Boly Mill, the birthplace of St. Bernadette, and the "Cachot," an abandoned prison where Bernadette's impoverished family lived. Each evening following dinner, you will have an opportunity to attend the candlelight procession and the Rosary, before a restful overnight.
Day 5, Lourdes - Plavilla - Fanjeaux - Carcassonne
After breakfast, we will transfer to Plavilla. We will meet with the "Community of the Lamb", which is a branch the Dominican Order; there is a branch in Kansas City, thanks to the demand of the Bishop of Kansas City. The Community of the Lamb (in French - Communaute de l'Agneau) is the name of a young Roman Catholic religious community. It consists of two branches, the Little Sisters of the Lamb (Petites Soeurs de l'Agneau) and the Little Brothers of the Lamb (Petites Freres de l'Agneau). The community is shaped both by Dominican and Franciscan spirituality, uniting the proclamation of the Gospel through preaching, with a commitment to the poor. The motto of the community is: "Wounded, I will never cease to love." The members of the community engage in the active door-to-door mission by going begging for their food. They also share their table with the poor and destitute, especially with the homeless.
We will continue to Fanjeaux to meet with the Dominican sisters in the monastery of Prouilhe. It was here that St. Dominic founded a monastery to house women converted by his preaching in 1206. This monastery, from which the nuns would leave to found other monasteries, such as Saint Sixtus in Rome, extends to host up to 160 nuns. After Mass celebration, continue to Carcassonne and discover this fortified city that is exceptionally well preserved and of a rare beauty. Its visit will give you an idea of what it would have been like to live in the Middle Ages. Situated in the south of France, not far from the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountains, Carcassonne is known worldwide and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. A nice walk will take you through small paved streets, from the chateau to the ramparts (view from the outside), passing by the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and the ancient houses. Dinner and overnight.
Day 6, Carcassonne / Aigues-Mortes / Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer / Avignon
Following breakfast, we will visit Aigues-Mortes, the city where King Saint Louis embarked for his first crusade. He built the ramparts around the city and harbor, as he wanted to have an opening on the Mediterranean Sea for his troops. You will visit the Constance tower, used as a prison for women considered as a heretic after revocation of Edict of Nantes. Continue to the Camargue region to discover the sanctuary of the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, dedicated to Mary Salome, Mary Jacob, and the Virgin Mary, called Our Lady of the Sea here (Notre Dame de la Mer) since the antiquity. It is here that in 45-46 EC, the Christian message was announced for the first time in France. It spread rapidly to Arles and the Rhone Valley and then up to Lyon during the 2nd century. It is one of the first pilgrimage sites of France. It is especially popular with the Gypsies, called in France "Gitans". They come here to worship their saint patron Sara, whom they believe was the servant who accompanied the Marys. The bodies of the Saint Women lay here: Mary Salome, mother of James the Major and John the Evangelist, and Mary Jacob, mother of James the Minor and Joseph. They followed Christ and were the first to bring the message of the Good News of his Resurrection. After they were chased out of Palestine, they arrived on the coast of the Camargue with Mary Magdalena, Martha, and Lazarus. In his testament in 542, Saint Cesaire, Bishop of Arles, mentioned a church dedicated to Our Lady of the Raft. In the 9th century, with the invasions of the Sarrasins, a fortified church was constructed. It incorporated the primitive church holding the bodies of the Saint Women. In 1448, King Rene ordered a dig and the relics were placed in reliquaries in the upper church. The primitive sanctuary was then demolished. You will then celebrate the Eucharist and continue to Avignon for dinner and an overnight.
Day 7, Avignon / Gordes / Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume
Today, we will visit the famous papal palace, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Avignon became the seat of the papacy between 1309 and 1423 with the popes, before they returned to Rome. The construction of the palace began in 1335. It is the largest Gothic construction of the Middle Ages. Two popes were responsible for directing the construction and they gave the palace its Christian fortress aspect: ramparts, keep, moats, a magnificent chapel. Six conclaves were held here, which ended in the election of Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI and Benedict XIII. The Papacy returned to Rome for political reasons, and an improvement between Catholics and Orthodox followed. Today, the papal palace is open to all and is known for its famous festival d'Avignon, one of the most important international festivals of contemporary entertainment. After lunch, we will drive to Gordes. The abbey of Senanque is located in the heart of Provence, in a natural setting of lavender and extraordinary beauty. As one of the purest examples of early Cistercian architecture, the abbey is still used by the community of Cistercian monks that live there today. One can discover the 12th-century abbey through a guided visit to the dormitory, the abbey church, the cloister, the heating room and the chapter room. As the monks say, "it is the testimony of men brought together by the call of Christ to follow him more closely that gives meaning to the religious edifice". The Cistercians organize their day around three pillars: the liturgical divine offices, Lectio Divina and work. The offices allow the praise and thanksgiving of God together throughout the day, the preference of God over all other activities, and the realization that even during work, the monks are to be turned toward God. Living according to the rule of Saint Benedict, which indicates "they are truly monks if they live by the work of their hands", the brothers of Sénanque are full of ideas. Honey, essential oils, jams, beauty products and numerous products derived from lavender are sold at the abbey's store. Transfer to Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume to celebrate Mass. Check into the Convent Royal in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, which is an ancient convent recently turned into a 4-star hotel that kept the spirit of the monastery with its charm and comfort. Dinner and an overnight here.
Day 8, Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume / Marseille / Cassis / Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume
After breakfast, transfer to Marseille for a panoramic tour followed by Mass celebration. Continue with a visit to the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, which rises high above Marseille and watches over the city. Also known as the "Good Mother", it is dear to the hearts of all the people of Marseille. Overlooking the port, it offers a splendid view of the Mediterranean. You can also discover the brand new museum of the basilica, with its rich collection of ex-votos and liturgical objects, which testify to the enormous attachment of the Notre-Dame de la Garde to history and how culture and architecture are part of prayer. In 1214, a small chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As the years went by, gifts from sailors allowed the chapel to be enlarged. Today's basilica was built in 1853 and has many beautiful ex-votos of sailors, those who returned safely from naval battles and shipwrecks. This devotion to Mary is neither due to an apparition nor to a miracle, but to the trusting devotion of missionaries and Marseille sailors toward the Virgin Mary. In the 19th century, when missionaries left for Asia or Africa with no hope of return, the statue of the Virgin and her Child of the basilica is the last image that they had of their country. After lunch, we will discover the Calanques of Cassis, situated near Marseille. They extend over 12.5 miles of the Mediterranean coast. The word "calanque" in the local dialect, designates a valley cut by a river that is then flooded by the sea. In Cassis, the rugged landscape of the Calanques has staggering beauty. In these enchanting surroundings, one can drink a glass of white wine by the port, discover the coastline by boat or walk the path that goes through Cassis. This is a fabulous stop and marvel at the beauty of the creation and view the coastline via short cruise ride. Return to Saint-Maximin-la-Baume for dinner and an overnight.
Day 9, Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume / Cotignac / Le Thoronet / Cannes
After breakfast at the hotel, we will board the bus to Cotignac. We will visit the sanctuary Notre-Dame de Greces in Cotignac, between Cannes and Marseille. As typical village of the Provence region, Cotignac is marked by the apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, as well as by that of Saint Joseph. These apparitions make this small village the only one in the world where the entire Holy Family has appeared! Pilgrims today can visit the sanctuary, speak and pray with the community of Saint-Jean, a dynamic renewal community of apostolic brothers and sisters. The sanctuary was born at the time of the apparition of the Virgin on August 10, 1519. As he had done each day, Jean de la Baume, a shepherd in the region, began his day with prayer. On this day, the Virgin told him to build a church at this precise spot, so that pilgrims might come in procession to receive the grace and gifts that she wanted to grant them. Over the years the chapel became a sanctuary and in the 17th century, the most important miracle happened for the French. After years of sterility for the royal couple, Anne of Austria and Louis XIII, went on a pilgrimage to Cotignac, and thanks to their faith, Louis XIV was born. To give thanks and praise, King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin Mary. King Louis XIV went in 1660 to thank the Virgin Mary for his life. We will continue to Le Thoronet, midway between Marseille and Nice, and discover the very beautiful abbey of Thoronet, nested in the green hills of the backcountry of Provence. It's very simplistic architecture and its light make it one of the most remarkable examples of Cistercian architecture in France and as a result, the site is listed as a national historical monument. No monks have lived in the abbey since 1971 and the French Revolution; the abbey has, however, gained back a spiritual dimension thanks to Monsignor Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon. Following his directions, a mass with Gregorian chants is now celebrated there every Sunday. Next to the abbey, you may discover the monastery of the Torrent de Vie. A young community of contemplative and eremitic sisters of the monastic family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin will welcome you. They are a testimony of the renewal of Faith in France. Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon, is totally implicated in the new evangelization. Mass celebration in the monastery with the Sisters of Bethlehem. Continue to Cannes for dinner and overnight.
Day 10, Cannes/ Lerins Abbey / Cannes
Following breakfast, we will board a boat to Lerins abbey to celebrate Mass. Following Mass visit the Benedictine abbey of Lerins (abbey, fortified tower) on the island of Saint Honorat, just in front of Cannes, on the Azur coast. It's in this magnificent landscape that the brothers invite you to share in the silence that favors a climate of prayer and contemplation. Their relationship with the world is illustrated by the abbey's position on the island of Saint-Honorat, near the coast but separated by the sea: to be "in the world" without being "of the world". The brothers live by the rule of Saint Benedict, which combines prayer and work. The abbey is particularly known for its production of good wines and liqueurs. In the 5th century, Saint Honorat was drawn by the monastic ideal and founded the community on the island of Lerins which today has taken the name of the saint. This monastery rapidly became one of the greatest centers of Western monastic tradition in its early years, and was responsible for many foundations. The abbey helped Saint Maxim to grow spiritually, as well as other bishops in France (the sainted founder too, who went on to become bishop of Arles). The bishops of this Abbey participated in the conversion to Christianity of Provence and several well-known saints spent time at the Abbey of Lerins learning about monastic life. Saint Patrick spent time here before going to evangelize Ireland. You will meet with a brother of the religious community, enjoy some wine tasting and then return by boat to Cannes for dinner and an overnight.
Day 11, Cannes / Nice Airport
After breakfast, transfer to Nice airport to say Au Revoir! to your fellow pilgrims. Board your flight to return home.