The Purpose of Belief

Anthony Robbins states “What’s the purpose of a belief? It guides us in making decisions about how to avoid pain or gain pleasure more quickly. Because of our beliefs, we don’t have to continually start from scratch in making those decisions. Sometimes in our moments of greatest fear, pain, or emotional intensity, we look for relief in the form of a belief.”

I’ve been struggling with trying to share my experience of my visit to Lourdes in France. Having been raised in a catholic environment at least in my early formative years, I have been taught much about belief and how it applies to religion.

As I aged and questioned much of the notions imparted on me, the question of belief always confounded me. As an adult I recognized that belief did ease the pain of losing my father, at least, at the onset of his passing. I wrote a letter stating that I felt he was lucky to be in heaven near Jesus, and this when I was only 9. Religion and church was important to me as it was intricately woven its reach into my daily life.

The older I got, the more I questioned everything, including the effect of belief and its value in my life. Not only belief in terms of religion, a higher being, a greater place than our physical world, but also the belief in destiny, in our own abilities etc.

This summer I had the privilege to visit Lourdes in France. Lourdes is famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes said to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. Each year approximately 5 million tourists visit this site, many in hope for a healing or a cure for their ailments.
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I arrived at this location expecting to see some injured and sick visitors but I was taken aback at the number of wheelchair bound visitors, many in an advanced state of illness. Blue wheelchairs pushed by hundreds of volunteers dominated each area and I imagined that a bird’s eye view would display an ant-like colony in movement.

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Hundreds of people were strategically placed in front of the statue where the sightings were said to have happened. Prayers were said and rosaries were clasped. The overall mood was somber yet dare I say, hopeful. A caravan of buses unloaded their passengers as all made their way to the main area which consisted of some benches, but mostly open space to accommodate the wheelchairs. Some knelt on small cushions while praying quietly. Some openly and unabashedly cried while others sat and stared at the statue.

We walked over to one of the churches and joined the mass already in progress. We stood in the back behind hundreds of blue wheelchairs; a sight that moved me to tears.
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The one sight that stopped me in mid step is etched in my mind. On a stretcher a person was draped with a blanket while being hooked to a variety of life-sustaining machines including a tracheotomy unit. I counted 12 individuals surrounding the stretcher and at that moment I realized just how strong one’s belief must be to travel in such a state in order to physically be in this special location.

I wonder if this was the wish of the patient or the family. Was this visit in hope of a cure or for a type of last rite before passing? I looked around at all the injured and ill believers and wondered if they were seeking divine intervention or simply felt the need to be in this sacred place? What I can tell you is, however strange this may seem, in my mind, belief is what I saw in abundance that day.

I am honored to have had the privilege to visit this very unique location.