Monday, May 4, 2009

Our Lady of Lourdes

-Catholic Weekly-January, 1958
"Few indeed are those who are present as eyewitnesses of one of those rare but terribly real occurrences in which the omnipotence of God strikes through the shadows of time and space to bind up and heal the broken bodies of men. But the evidence of these visitations is indisputable... God of course chooses His own times and places and occasions for the miraculous, but His power shines forth most frequently where His Mother is honored and venerated."

June 25, 1984
My first visit to Lourdes was while backpacking through Europe. One of the Nashville Dominicans had given me the name of a Sister at the Poor Clare Convent with whom I could stay. Sr. Benigne, her brother Dominique and the cook ran the place. They put me in a small room with a shower down the hall. They fed me and four seminarians an incredible lunch. We helped clean the dishes; Dominique informed me of the rules and I went out to walk around Lourdes. I entered the huge Basilica and was taken with the massive mosaics of the Stations of the Cross. Visited the crypt then took the steep hike to the life size bronze Stations of the Cross. As I walked, I was completely moved by the peace that encompassed these mountains. I could not help but spend time at each of these life like figures. I then went down to the Grotto where Mary appeared to Bernadette. I washed my hands and my face in the waters and wondered why I had come to this remote place in the Pyrenees so far from anyone I knew. I went back to my room and rested until dinner then headed back to the Basilica for the Procession. I stood on top of the Basilica as thousands of people prayed and sang together, each in their own language. The rosary was prayed in at least six different languages. Everyone raised their torches up during certain parts. Small children went by in wheelchairs and strollers, as well as the young and the old. The number of volunteers was unreal, especially the girls no older than me. Somehow, standing on top of that Basilica, watching the amazing faith of all those thousands of people, I was changed. I could never explain how or why, but I was one of those present when "the power of God shines forth where His Mother is honored and venerated." I was strengthened in faith, proud to be Catholic and to this day strive to follow the messages of prayer, repentance and fasting.

Mary came a long way to the most remote places to deliver what could be our way to Heaven. In a stable; in remote villages; in tiny chapels. She goes on our behalf to deliver messages to save us. She teaches us unconditional love and we in turn are challenged to pass on those teachings; to lead others back to Jesus, to pray and to sacrifice and to repent and to simply love. We are challenged to go to the most remote places in our hearts and in the hearts of others and to spread the love of Christ; to show compassion, to show kindness, to show forgiveness, to show hospitality and acceptance. It is our duty to continue Mary's messages.

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