#2: In Which Gus Receives his First Communion and We All Receive a Valid but Illicit Blessing From a “Bishop”

by | May 29, 2014 | Parenting, Travel | 31 comments

If you read Part 1, you’ll know we arrived in Lourdes one day late. So, instead of the two days I had planned for, we had one full day in Lourdes in which to Do All the Things! And we did. Really, we did. We met up with my parents, who had already been in Lourdes doing a service week and we did it all.

First order of business: Gus’ First Holy Communion at the Grotto.


It was early. It was chilly. It was in Italian. It was lovely. Gus was so pleased!

After the Mass at the Grotto, we headed in to one of the chapels, where an English speaking priest from South Africa, Fr. Paul, honored Gus on his special day. Also lovely.

Then we went out for crepes and hot chocolate!
Back to the Sanctuary to tour the churches . . .

Below you can see the crucifix just inside one of the gates, then the Rosary Basilica in front of the  Upper Basilica.

I just adore the Rosary Basilica. Turn of the last century + covered in Mosaics = my favorite churches in the whole world. I could look at this one for hours. But we didn’t have time for that!

Is it just me or does Cate Blanchette look exactly like Our Lady here?

Then we toured the Upper Basilica:

Stations of the Cross, the baths, Lourdes water for drinking and washing, confession . . .

Any day you just happen upon these guys is probably going to be a good day.

We visited Le Cachot, St. Bernadette’s childhood home. And we had the first of MANY ice creams.

Then back to the Grotto to specifically pray for each of your intentions.
And light candles for you at the brulières. That big one is for a very special intention. You know who you are!

Finally, we did the Candlelight Rosary Procession. Some of us slept through it. Some of us kept lighting our wind shields on fire.

And that was that. Day seized. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us.

The next morning, we headed for our next stop: Rocamadour.

It’s a visually stunning and historically interesting pilgrimage site in the Toulouse region.

It was the home of a hermit named Zaccheus, who was maybe THE Zaccheus, who was married to a woman named Veronica, who was maybe THE Veronica. In any case, it has been a popular pilgrimage site for as long as anyone can remember.

We saw Our Lady of Rocamadour, this black Madonna who dates from at least the 9th Century, maybe earlier.
And it was in that chapel that we met Bishop Mary Fidelis and his entourage. He was venerating the statue and leading his followers: two young nuns, and two young men, in prayer.
Later, we met up with them again in the gift shop, where we all chatted and he showed us pictures on his iPhone, and offered to give us his blessing. And we accepted.
But my spidey sense was tingling. It just all seemed . . . off to me. This guy was young, really young for a bishop. He had with him two young nuns, and two young men. They were all beautiful. Their clothes and their trappings were beautiful. They were chatty. It was all very attractive. And showy.
But we have been fortunate enough to meet a number of bishops and other holy men, and they’ve always struck me as having a particular quality of recollectedness. Of being able to look at you and really listen with their eyes. This guy didn’t have that at all.
As soon as we walked away I asked the husband to google him. And lo and behold, he’s a sedevacantist bishop, ordained by this guy. And, I have to say, we all felt a bit creeped out by it all. It would appear that he is validly ordained, which would make his orders (and our blessing) valid but illicit. As in, he’s not allowed to perform the duties of a bishop, but if he does, they still count.
So that was weird.
So we needed some ice cream.

But the ice cream was also weird. (Foie Gras? Cheese?)

Stay tuned for installment #3, which includes Chartres, Lisieux (not to be confused with THE zoo), Bayeux, Normandy and the WWII battlefields, and one trip to a French ER. You don’t want to miss it.


  1. Erica Saint

    Totally think Cate Blanchette looks like Our Lady!
    And I agree that ice cream was definitely a must after the blessing. Did anyone get Foie Gras?

    • Kendra

      No, no they did not. We stuck with fruits and chocolate!

  2. Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely

    Oh my goodness! It's all beautiful, but the picture of Rocamadour is stunning.
    Once, two of my great aunts went to a Catholic weekend conference for some spiritual renewal. Turned out to be a sedevacantist conference and they *really* didn't fit it 🙂 Cause you know, they wore pants and believed the Pope was legit…

  3. Kate

    So so beautiful! But I keep getting distracted by how…clothed…you all are. Can you teach us how to pack for these types of trips? I'm just in awe.

  4. Ann-Marie Ulczynski

    I am so impressed that you thought to google him. And it's very interesting to me that you were able to just tell that something was off. I am amazed that you were able to fit in so much in one day.

  5. Kirsten

    Thank you for sharing your trip! Your pictures are gorgeous! I don't know if I will ever get overseas, so I will live vicariously through you! I love your hats. Baby LuLu is precious! Loving all of it.
    Oh, and creepy about the "bishop"
    looking forward to more!

  6. Elizabeth@SuperSwellTimes

    Creepy bishop is creepy, man. Thanks to your creepy bishop story, I've fallen down the rabbit hole of sedevacantism research — so, uh, thanks for that.

    I love looking at all your pictures, though! It looks like everyone had a wonderful time.

    • Kendra

      Sorry, I MAY have done exactly the same thing that night on my iPad instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour and I can't say it helped me in any way.

  7. Heather

    You look amazing! I love reading the travel blogs that are linked up with Rick Steves website. Your recaps are right in my wheel house. Love!

  8. Elizabeth

    Beautiful photos! And thank you for the prayers for everyone. My prayer request was relatively small — that we sell our house asap. Just wanted to let you know that the house is under contract as of yesterday, with less than a month on the market. So the prayers of friends and family, this blog, and St. Jude in particular really came through! Looking forward to reading more about the trip.

    We actually live near a sedevacante group — really beautiful as you describe, but yeah…Our Diocese was fortunate to welcome about a third of their nuns back into the valid fold last year. They still wear the longer, more traditional habit, which I love.

  9. Amanda

    Doing that much in such a short time sounds wonderful and utterly exhausting! All this traveling seems so exciting, and how wonderful that all the kids get to be there for it too. Maybe I've missed something, how did you work it out for Gus to receive his first communion there in France? That seems so unique and special for him.

    And I'm with Kate, you guys all have such great, casual but very put-together style!

    • Kendra

      We have done all of the kids' First Communions away from our home parish with permission in writing from our parish priest. I prepare them at home, then take them to meet with our priest and he examines them and we bring a letter from him on parish stationary with us, just in case there's any concern. But no one has ever asked us about it. We just put them in line!

  10. Chantel Carriere

    Thank you for your beautiful insight. I now look forward to our month trip to Italy in Aug 2015 (likely 2016), with our six kids. Your very inspirational.

  11. Julie Skeptical

    Your kids are so gorgeous and I love that you take them on these special trips. I can't imagine having traveled so much at that age. What stories they have to share!

    And oh my goodness, the "bishop" story is just freaky. I have lots to google now…

  12. Christy from fountains of home

    Oh man, these pictures are just great and I want to go there right now! What a beautiful trip. I also think Cate Blanchett may need to be in a religious epic according to that mosaic. And foie gras ice cream?! The French are so sophisticated…. ??

  13. Becky

    You probably have at some point, but id love for you to blog about why and how you travel with all your small children!

  14. Patty

    I have wanted to go go Lourdes since I was a little girl; I loved the story of Bernadette so that I chose her name for my Confirmation. The pictures are just gorgeous…how special for Gus to have his first Communion there; what an awesome day for your family!

  15. cat

    Kendra this is so great! I hope you will have posts for the future on how you planned, packed, and traveled with your kids !

  16. Jill VT

    Kendra I just keep thinking of your itchies! I hope a) that it is not at all serious; and b) that it is very quickly and easily remedied! You don't have TIME for that shite!

    • Kendra

      Thanks Jill! I had a bunch of tests done yesterday, but no results yet, and I have an appointment with an allergist next week to get skin tests done, so I guess we'll see. But either time or the steroids have helped a lot. I didn't have any attacks yesterday, just low level, manageable, general itchiness. I'm not convinced they'll be able to figure out what caused it, which is fine with me as long as it stops!

  17. Nanacamille

    When Gus was being baptized Thanksgiving weekend a light came in the church window and shined right on him alone. All the day of his 1st Communion he shown just as brightly. It was amazing.
    Chatty Nana that I am I struck up the conversation with the Bishop in the gift shop and wanted to introduce all of the family to him. They did all look like actors from a Hollywood movie so attractive and well costumed in religious attire. I have never met any of this group before. He was really talkative.
    This was our most special day ever in Lourdes and grandad and I go every year to volunteer our services as Hospitaliers de Notre Dame for the malades.
    The Tierneys were a shining light of faith to all there seeking healing in mind, body or spirit. It won't be the same there next May without them. God bless

  18. Christine

    hmm..I've never heard of a married hermit before 🙂 But very cool! I would love to get to France some day.

  19. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing the story of your trip with us. It is so inspiring to see that you take your family on pilgrimages! I hope that I am able to do that with my family someday as well (my kids are 2, 1 and in utero, so I'm not planning any big trips anytime soon :)) Am I wrong to assume that it is because you are homeschooling (rather than sending your kids to Catholic school), that you are able to make these pilgrimages? (Because of the flexibility homeschooling offers and the money you are saving?) What a powerful way to learn more about the Catholic faith and more about the world!

  20. Erin Pulles

    How wonderful for you to take your family to Lourdes! However, I'm rather confused by your retelling of the meeting with the sedevacantist bishop. "Creepy" seems a strange word to use? Are you trying to say that sedevacantists are all about show, cheap tricks and creepiness? That hasn't really been my experience with them…

    • Kendra

      I certainly can't speak to what sedevacantists are like, to my knowledge, these were the first I ever met. I felt misled. That made me uncomfortable.

  21. Dan & Katie

    We have a sedevacantist order of sisters who sell pastries at our local grocery store in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. My girls were so excited to see fully habited sisters and I was excited to find that they run a soup kitchen in the city. My husband is a youth minister, so I started peppering her with questions because I honestly wanted more info regarding service opportunities. She spoke mostly french, so it was not an easy conversation, but I started getting this weird sense when I was asking her about her order and when their pamphlets referred to their bishop by only his first name. Sure enough, an illicit ordination. I totally understand what you mean about feeling misled.

  22. Anonymous

    What did you think about the drive to Lourdes (besides the vomiting)? We are planning a trip in October with our 2yo and 4.5yo. I will also be about 25 weeks pregnant. Our children don't *love* the car, but the cost and ability to stop halfway there is somewhat appealing. I'm trying to anticipate the best way to get there after 18 hours of traveling just to get to Paris!

    • Kendra

      It's a long drive, and even coming in on the earliest flight I could find, we still had to drive straight through without stopping to sightsee to get in at a semi-reasonable hour. Which is a bummer. When my husband and I went with just one baby in 2007 we took the train, which is great. That would be my first choice, but it's so expensive for a big group, that we decided to rent a van.

      It was fine, even with the barfing, and my kids are used to putting up with long drives. And at the end we got to be in Lourdes!

  23. Anonymous

    I'm just now finding this post and love that you brought your family to Lourdes! My husband and I did a service week in Lourdes just after you were there – we went with the North American Volunteers, is that how your parents volunteer or do they work directly with the Sanctuaries? We stayed near Rocamadour but didn't get there, and also stayed at Mont St. Michel and in Normandy, as well as Paris, so your whole trip is interesting, although obviously different from ours (no kids with us!)

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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