PS: That's right - "yesterday's word". The website was updated yesterday, though no newsletter went out. See the right-hand column to find the last five French words.
baptême (baah-tem) noun, masculine
Baptême: un mot grec [baptizein] qui signifie immersion.
Baptism: a Greek word [baptizein] that signifies immersion.
A bit of background on today's story:
"The sacred grotto at Massabieille, near the town of Lourdes in southern France, appeals to Catholics as does no other place. This is the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, the place where Mary appeared to a humble peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 and spoke words of comfort and simple faith. At Mary's behest, Bernadette dug in the rocky soil of the grotto and struck water. A puddle soon became a spring that gushed forth waters that were recognized to have documented healing properties, baffling physicians and scientific experts. Some six million pilgrims visit Lourdes each year, making it the most popular place of pilgrimage in the world."
--from the book: Lourdes Diary: Seven Days at the Grotto of Massabieille
Entering the holy quarter of Lourdes, I paused to recall the pancarte* by which I had just passed.... Had it shown cameras as prohibited? Looking around, I tried to discern whether other visitors had appareils*... The woman in the wheelchair didn't. Neither did the man on crutches....
Petit à petit,* I began to notice the pilgrims around me, who entered the commune via various modes of transportation: on foot, on crutch, on a loved one's arm (or cradled there, protectively). There were many wheelchairs, and vintage blue carts pulled by pedestrians. I noticed that those who sat inside the blue carts had colorful afghans covering their laps, in contrast with their pale faces, and I figured that the blankets were hand-made by volunteers. Those who were not seated in the carts were lying in them -- helplessly flat on their backs, eyes fixed on the royaume* above.
Together, and in varying degrees of degeneration, the pilgrims advanced toward the golden church facade and the lingering inside me felt something like judgment day.
Looking over to my family, I saw three rosy-cheeked vacationers: my son, my daughter, and my husband. I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of: it was not our time yet... and hopefully it wasn't theirs either, I thought, my eyes returning to the pained pèlerins.* A scripture played silently on my tongue:
un temps pour naître, et un temps pour mourir... un temps pour guérir..."*
For those surrounding us, flocking towards the holy waters, it was indeed a time to heal....
Like sheep, we followed one another until we reached a bridge and a fork in our path. To our right, there were long lines leading up to what must be the sacred site where the Blessed Virgin is said to have appeared in the grotto. Those in line must be waiting for a full immersion into the holy water there. While I was tempted to wait with the others, my family was pressed for time, and so we headed over the bridge, toward the church.
Clusters of people gathered at the side of the église,* around the corner from the entrance... On closer look, I saw the long row of robinets, or "push knob" fountains, that attracted the crowds. The pèlerins were busy filling empty bottles and gourdes* -- or any kind of portable container -- at what could be
called a self-service holy water bar.
Completely unprepared, my family and I didn't have anything to fill. Then again, my conscience reasoned, we weren't sick or ailing like the others, so why take healing waters away from someone who actually needed them? On second look, it became apparent that everyone had a need, for some of those water collectors appeared healthier than Olympic medalists.
"Venez,"* my husband said, noting an available robinet. The kids and I approached only to stand hesitant before the faucet. I reached over and pushed the knob. Out came the curative water, and I cupped my hands beneath the spout in time to catch it. I poured a bit of it across my husband's shoulders and cooled his neck, drip by drip, then patted my hands across his tired and weathered face. Looking into his appreciative eyes, I remembered the many trials that he lived through this past year, while setting out as a newbie wine farmer--this, while patching up a 17th-century farmhouse with the help of a sometimes flippant crew of workers--all the while answering, hit or miss, to the emotional needs of his family. By the end of December, he was no more than a sack of bones held together by one threadbare string of hope: he simply hoped to not fall apart. We were never certain whether or when the last frayed ends of that fragile ficelle* would snap, and the uncertainty was our own threatening noose, one we wore along with the constant knot of anxiety in our throats.
My husband's next gesture acknowledged that he was not alone in that difficult time: I watched as his hands reached up to his face, still wet with healing, before reaching out to touch my own. Suddenly, the dampness from his palms absorbed into my own pores with such a cathartic jolt that I had to turn away in time for the water to rush out, as it had done at the fountain, from behind the blinking eyes on my face.
This past transitional year, with its ups and downs, with all that was spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten, was now behind us, and here we were, still standing, each on his/her own two feet: with a home and a first vintage** to boot.... and two thoughtful kids who were now baptizing each other and their parents with splashing, sacred glee.
Walking out of Lourdes, the other pilgrims' pain was manifest: those crutches, the wheelchairs, the disfigurement. Hidden was the pain of those "healthy ones" who sometimes wear their anguish on the inside flap of the heart.
une pancarte (f) = sign; un appareil (m) = camera; petit à petit = little by little; le royaume (des cieux) (m) = Kingdom (of Heaven); le pèlerin (m) = pilgrim; "Il y a un temps pour tout, un temps pour toute chose sous les cieux: un temps pour naître, et un temps pour mourir... un temps pour guérir... = (Ecclesiastes 3) There is a time for everything, a time for everything under the heavens... a time to be born, and a time to die.... a time to heal ; une église (f) = church; une gourde (f) = flask; venez = come here; la ficelle (f) = string
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety