I like the fact that when Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, she responded to illiterate, ignorant Bernadette’s query as to her identity with the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Sometimes I like to imagine the looks on the faces of the learned and elite, who hounded Bernadette for years after her visions, when she – unschooled and speaking in her humble patois – threw those words at them.
Here is a nice article on a pilgrimage site where lay the ruins of what some believe to be Mary’s last residence, courtesy of my l’il brother, Thom, who is down with a flu.
In 1891, a Lazarist priest who was teaching at Sacred Heart College of Smyrna and two of his friends ventured into the mountains overlooking the ruins of Ephesus on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Guided by clues from the German mystic Anna Katharina Emmerick, the trio found the remains of a house alongside a spring of water half hidden by tress on July 29 of that year. On those foundations, they reconstructed a house. The site has never received official approval of authenticity, but it has become a much visited pilgrim site — more than a million a year.
Pope John XXIII visited the shrine many times during his stay as apostolic delegate in Turkey, while Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II came here as pilgrims in 1967 and 1979 respectively.
There are two traditions about the last years of the life of the mother of Jesus. Some say she traveled with St. John the Evangelist to Ephesus but then returned to Jerusalem, where she died. Others say Mary spent the last years of her life here in a house St. John built, living in silence and in prayer.
“I am convinced that Mary’s spirit continues to live here and it can be felt,” says Fr. Tarcy, an Indian Capuchin who has been here for a dozen years. “Often I see people, men and women, young and old, deeply moved and even in tears. When asked, ‘Why do you cry, are you sad?’, the reply is always the same: ‘No, I am not sad, I am deeply moved, I feel something special here, a peace, a joy, a warm welcome, a happiness.’ ”
Tarcy says that no matter what sufferings or struggles people bring with them, an intense inner peace enfolds them here. “Feeling truly at ease, they can rest, like members of one family whatever religion they belong to,” he said.
One of my brother’s celebrates his birthday today. It is a controversial doctrine for non-Catholics, and the Orthodox do not observe it, either. But I kinda like it. Mary’s apparitions at Lourdes – her use of the term in reference to herself – moves me and I am not so certain I even understand why. “I am the Immaculate Conception…” I am she whom the angel called “full of grace…”
As ever, I don’t put it out here for debate. I’m no apologist – have never felt called to it – and when apologetics discussions arise, I tend to understand my own limited intellect and take the line from Bernadette: “my job is to inform, not to convince.”
I’ve always liked this picture of Bernadette, of her corpse – her relic, actually – incorruptible, as are so many relics of those who have looked up and found themselves face-to-face with Mary. I don’t know what to think about it, really, but it’s certainly fascinating.
“You will not allow your beloved to undergo corruption.” (Psalm 16:10). Maybe it’s about that. Maybe it’s connected to the resurrection of the body. I have no idea. But it’s all pretty interesting. And in Advent, it’s not a bad thing to consider those humble ones who have been used by God, who always uses the humblest of materials to do his bidding.
UPDATE: Some more, really excellent (far superior to mine) posts on this Feast Day can be found at Paragraph Farmer and he links to an incredibly powerful piece at Mark Shea’s place and Happy Catholic has a link to Pope Benedict’s remarks.
UPDATE II: Amy Welborn excerpts a passage from the book Mary’s House, which is available used thru Amazon.com. I’ve already ordered it and told my hubby it’s my Christmas present!