My pilgrimage to Lourdes last July – my first since 1973 – was a week spent truly in the service of others and therefore exhausting, emotional, life-affirming and immensely enjoyable.

This afternoon I joined a group of regular and new helpers at the start of a period of preparation and reconnecting with amazing people that will culminate in the coming together of 300 of us in Lourdes on 17 July. Our preparation ranges from spiritual guidance through safety and safeguarding to the seemingly mundane though important refresher lesson in how to wash hands with clinical precision.

The next few months will be a challenging journey in which we will all learn more about ourselves, cement and grow deep friendships and be privileged to put ourselves at the disposal of those who are less able in mind or body than we are. Looking forward to it with much anticipation.