Marl. A pedestrian pilgrim on the way to Lourdes stops in the village

Deacon Antoine Bérat receives Jean-Pierre van Den Bosschelle. ©LPB

It is a strong smiling man that we have in front of us Vauchamps. Welcomed by the Bérat family for one night before hitting the road again, the pilgrim Jean-Pierre van Den Bosschelle tells us its wonderful human and spiritual adventure. On August 17, he took his backpack and his belongings, which weighed 21 kilos, and took to the road. No car, no mule and no bike. For this pilgrimit will be on foot that he will cover the 1,248 kilometers leading to the Massabielle caveat the place where the poor Bernadette had an encounter that would change his life. According to catholic traditionshe was visited there by the Virgin Mary. He plans to reach his destination on October 3 at a rate of 26 km per day for 48 days.

A busy life

For Jean-Pierre however, he will go to the cave, but it is all the way that will be his spiritual journey.

He will move forward by re-reading his life and it has been very full.

Young retiree since he is asserting his rights on the 1er August 2022, he does not want to go from activity to idleness. The shock would be brutal for this man who was in the upper floors of the Carrefour company covering more than 230 stores. Suffice to say that the pilgrim had his work cut out for him. Accustomed to a life of work and movement, he will not resolve to become a pensioner who will watch television. On the contrary, Jean-Pierre will take advantage of this free period to do extraordinary things.

Not even 17 days after retiring, so he set off on this first adventure. “I am not what one might call a practicing Catholic and, beyond religion, it is rather a spiritual journey that I want to take. You have to differentiate between religion and spirituality,” he explains. And to add: “Of course, like all Belgians, in any case a vast majority of those of my generation, I had a Catholic religious education. I was an altar boy and I followed the paths of a young Catholic’s life. I was a scout until I became what you call companions in France. And I remember a trip to Lourdes with the parish when I was 10 years old. Then, over time, without even realizing it, I drifted away from religion. I was becoming a lukewarm devotee,” smiled the man.

Why Lourdes?

Why Lourdes? This friendly man does not need to think about this question: “Lourdes is a mythical place. It’s remarkable because in this place you come across Catholics of course, but also Protestants and Muslims and Jews and even Buddhists. It is certainly a Catholic place, but which has the gift of bringing together all spiritualities. »

And to talk about his faith: “I no longer go to church, but my faith is still there. Just dust it off. This is also one of the goals of this pilgrimage. I’m also going to soak my mother’s cross, who is no longer with us, in the water in the cave. »

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“The trip is already a great adventure”

Jean-Pierre van Den Bosschelle tells us about his first meetings, including that of the Bérat couple: “When I prepared my trip, I got in touch with the municipalities of the places I was going to choose for my stopovers. I was looking for shelters for the night which also makes a pilgrimage as in time. Sometimes, when I had no response from the lay authorities, I contacted the parishes. In Montmirail, the parish priest, Pascal Tindaro, put me in touch with the deacon of the parish, Antoine Bérat. This one without hesitation offers room and board to this pilgrim who will arrive at his home on the evening of August 27th. »

Jean-Pierre van Den Bosschelle shared a time of exchange on his life with Danielle and Antoine his hosts. Then on the morning of the 28th, he took up his pilgrim’s staff for the next destination. In some time, he will send the postcards: “In Lourdes, I prayed for you”.

Bon voyage or, as we say in Flemish, “Goede reis”. To follow his journey you can go on the Internet:

Photo: Deacon Antoine Bérat receives Jean-Pierre van Den Bosschelle.

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Marl. A pedestrian pilgrim on the way to Lourdes stops in the village