The movie Lourdes is a look at the famous French shrine and the attitudes of a group of present-day pilgrims towards the reputation of the site for healing physical ailments, and towards each other.
Lourdes continues to be a surprisingly popular, and surprisingly well-equipped pilgrimage site (they even have wheelchair-accessible face-to-face confessionals!), even in the present day, long after the spring and the Marian apparitions appeared in the mid-1800s.

There are more people who visit the Lourdes than visit the Vatican each year, over 6 million Christian pilgrims from all faiths, not just Catholic embark upon the pilgrimage to visit the Grotto (Grotte de Massabielle) next to the church in the holy city, this was the site of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubirous, irrespective of their own religious beliefs / religion. Many people bottle the miraculous holy water to keep for themselves, they also give the bottles of holy water as religious gifts to loved ones and give the water to help cure the sick.

Lourdes water being credited with the agency of miraculous healing, many of the pilgrims are in wheelchairs, experiencing chronic conditions, or are otherwise physically handicapped.
Christine is one of these, seen initially to be in a wheelchair and unable to make more than small movements. Her manual wheelchair is pushed and her activities of daily life are dealt with by a small group of young women whose uniforms suggest a combination of nun and nurse, but whose conduct occasionally lapses into that of flighty, irresponsible teens. These teenage attendants (it is never made exactly clear whether they are volunteer or paid, or what level, if any, of professional training they have had or conduct they are expected to adhere to) flirt with a small group of soldiers also visiting the shrine, and at one point at a Eucharistic adoration in the shrine, leave Christine unattended, whereupon another woman pushes Christine’s wheelchair to a spot further to the front. Christine is later reprimanded for this seeming spiritual greed by one of the pilgrimage organizers though she did not actively choose to move to the front of the congregation at the expense of others. Slight, blonde, and blue-eyed, while in the wheelchair, Christine refrains from asserting herself, even in situations where it is clear that she is left out and passed by, if not actively wronged. In one such incident, one of her uniformed caregivers takes her to the candle-lighting area outside the shrine, and they light a candle. Christine’s caregiver pushes her wheelchair past the area quickly afterwards, failing to pause for the interval of silent prayer in which most Catholics engage when lighting a candle. Given the Catholic nature of the whole excursion, this would seem to be counterproductive.
Christine freely admits that she chose to go on the pilgrimage not because she is especially devout, but because organized pilgrimages such as this one are among the few places disabled people can go and things they can do. There may be cultural and/or logistical differences affecting the lives and possibilities for the disabled in French society that seriously differ from Anglo-American culture: France may lack such accommodations as wheelchair ramps, and conversion vans. Others might also expect that the physically disabled participate in religious activities such as these, whether or not they are actually believers (France traditionally being a Catholic country, and public morals being what they are). Perhaps in France the physically disabled are expected to be passive in a culture highly different from ours. Christine is shy and demure when the man she has her eye on is chatted up by others, and she has long since given up objecting when, because of her wheelchair, she is treated like an object or a piece of furniture at various times in the movie. (Note: When the handsome soldier agrees to push her wheelchair uphill, he is not among those who do this: he is referring to the physical hardship of pushing a woman in a wheelchair uphill as a sacrifice/mortification of the flesh to be “offered up” to make merit, either for himself or the poor souls in purgatory.)
All this starts to change when Christine seemingly starts to regain her physical functioning after having gone to the “baths” (large rooms with piped-in water from the spring below the shrine). She starts by being able to touch the walls of the cave associated with the shrine on her own, and later stands and walks on her own. Though this initially seems to be a cause for celebration, when she goes before the on-site medical board to verify the miracle that seems to have occurred, she is warned by one of the doctors there that it is merely a remission of her MS, and that what happened to her would not qualify as a miracle if the MS returned to its previous condition, which it was likely to do. Earlier in the film, other pilgrims had cautioned against disabled pilgrims getting their hopes too high; they had publicly discussed the case of a previous “miracle” cure of a man with MS which had proved to be evanescent. It may be, because unlike Christine, he was said to be devout, that the “placebo effect” worked a temporary wonder with his physical state, but that the power of suggestion wore off eventually.
In the latter part of the movie Christine seems to improve steadily, walking with more strength and longer distances, utilizing a cane, but going on an excursion to the mountains meant for able-bodied pilgrims, her confidence improving along with her physical condition.

from the movie Lourdes, 2009

Sylvie Testaud as the not-particularly-devout Christine, who experiences temporary remission of her MS during a pilgrimmage to Lourdes


She finds joy in simple things, such as eating an ice cream sundae at a cafe without having someone ask if she were “allowed” to eat it. At a party for the pilgrims, she puts her cane aside, and asks the soldier she had her eye on to dance. She stumbles and falls while dancing, the soldier makes an excuse and leaves, and though she stands at the sidelines under her own power for awhile, the considered opinion of the others is that her MS is back as quickly as it left, and neither seeming miracles or the Deity who is purportedly responsible for them are to be trusted. Someone brought around Christine’s wheelchair, and the movie ended ambiguously as she sat in it.

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