Dublin: 6 °C Monday 6 December, 2021

Column: Cardinal Rules – What happens in Lourdes, stays in Lourdes…

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland embarks on the annual parish pilgrimage… but will everyone get home safely?

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

THIS WEEK WE went on the annual parish pilgrimage to Lourdes. As usual a jolly  group of thirty or so stalwarts headed away for a week of prayer and thanks.


Big excitement as we get on the plane. As per tradition we are flying via low budget carrier, Easyair. Easyair is the perfect airline for Catholic pilgrims, mainly because through a combination of bad manners and horrendous customer service, they manage to make you feel guilty about taking the flight in the first place.

Travelling Easyair means we have to hoist Mrs Mulligan and her wheelchair on to the plane ourselves. Chief among the helpers is Mrs Mulligan’s son Danny. A quiet, reserved middle aged gentleman who has devoted his life to his mammy, the church, and the local bridge club.  In a moment of weakness, a sweating, and visibly strained Fr Lawlor wonders if the cross Jesus shouldered to Calvary weighed as “much as a 24 stone woman.”

A withering glance from me silences him.

On board the plane Danny asks Mrs Mulligan if she’s okay. “I’m grand so I am,” she says, “I’m not one for complaining.” She then proceeds to complain about the cold, her seat cushion, and the fact that Fr Lawlor is “looking at her funny.” Meanwhile, Danny sits beside her, nodding politely and only interrupting with the occasional “Yes, Mammy. No, Mammy.”

As the plane takes off Fr Ryan bursts into his traditional rendition of “The Wind Beneath my Wings” with Blessed Virgin Mary subtext foregrounded by him waving a statuette of Our Lady.


Am woken at 6am by an excited Fr Lawlor banging on my door. “I don’t want to jump the gun,” he says “but I think there might have been a miracle already.” I try to quell my rising excitement, and I ask him, in as restrained a manner as possible, what has happened.

Then he tells me his Athlete’s Foot has disappeared.

He babbles on: “…have had it for months…tried creams, everything…surely the intervention of Our Lady…”

I nod politely and smile for the rest of his account. It’s when he offers to show me his foot that I make my excuses and retreat back into my room. Outside my door I can hear his muffled voice. “Maybe later so.”

At breakfast Mrs Mulligan complains about the lack of rashers, and shouts at Danny because she is all out of mint Toffos. Danny doesn’t look at her, and just goes to their room where he retrieves the emergency supply of mint Toffos.

Our plan to walk to the grotto is scuppered by torrential rain. So we stay inside and watch  Dick Nugent’s old VHS copy of “Dana goes to Knock.”


Down to the grotto. Mrs Mulligan sucking and slurping on mint Toffos while looking at the statue of Our Lady suddenly shrieks “I seen her move!” A sudden rush of about a dozen pilgrims results in a man in crutches being knocked over. “Hold on,” says Mrs Mulligan “I have me readin’ glasses on. They do quare things to me eyes.” She then asks Danny to go back to the hotel to get her proper glasses.

Meanwhile, hardcore Lourdes pilgrim “Pious” Brendan O’ Shea is telling everybody how he was cured of paralysis in Lourdes in 1982. “Pious” has the unnerving effect of being a  lay person who manages to make most clergy men feel inferior. “Within five minutes I was doing the Birdie dance,” is his favourite summation of the whole experience, followed by him actually doing the Birdie dance.

Danny arrives back with Mrs Mulligan’s glasses. “Where’s me sunglasses?” she asks him. Danny visbly sags, but dutifully heads back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, Fr Lawlor is asking people if they’d like to see his foot.


More rain. Everybody stays in to watch “Dana and Val Doonican do the Camino de Santiago.” It is very eductaional. We learn that suffering is the path to salvation, and Val Doonican can’t put up a tent.

To bed later that night, with the sound of Mrs Mulligan’s voice echoing through the hotel as she shouts for Danny to go and fetch her gout medicine.


A terrible day. Accounts differ slightly as to the true nature of events. However, most people agree that what they saw will stay with them for the rest of their lives. “You think you’ve seen it all,” says Fr Daly shaking his head, “But then you see a 24 stone woman rolling  down a hill.”

It seems that “Pious” Brendan will not be walking for a very long time. “All 24 stone of her,” mutters Fr Daly, and then he breaks down and cries again.

Debate rages as to whether Danny fell, or whether the wheelchair was somehow tipped over in a deliberate act of malice. No matter, the result is still the same. Mrs Mulligan is now in hospital, and an oddly serene Danny has been retained for questioning.

Meanwhile, on the plane home, I am informed by a despondent Fr Lawlor that his Athlete’s Foot has returned.

Truly the Lord giveth, then he taketh away when you least expect it.

About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel