150 Years today ago in Lourdes…


Grotto at Lourdes, shamelessly cribbed from Fr. James Martin

…a dirt-poor, uneducated girl saw a beautiful lady in the most humble of places.

Thus begins a true story whose epilogue has not yet been written.

The key to the story of Lourdes is not the Marian apparition. It is not Bernadette’s story. It is not the healings which have taken place at this holy spot where heaven kissed the earth. It is the notion of service to others. It is knowing what is meant for you, and what you are actually supposed to simply do for the good of others. It is a remarkable living lesson, every day, of the tender mercies of God and the need for prayer, faith and service in our lives.

Fr. James Martin, who wrote movingly about his personal experiences at Lourdes in his wonderful book, My Life With the Saints notes the anniversary and writes:

It has become fashionable in recent years, especially after Vatican II, to downplay the miraculous, the supernatural or the otherworldly aspects of our Catholic faith…Are these things, people ask me, consistent with a mature faith?

I’ve never had that problem. Or those questions. I consider myself a rational person, and a fairly well educated Catholic, who is also not a literalist in any way when it comes to things like, say, Scripture. But…I’ve always believed that we need to be exceedingly careful to say what God can and cannot do, and how God does and does not act. Or, worse, how God should act or not act.

That’s one of the things that landed the scribes and the Pharisees in so much trouble.

I concur. One of the things I’ve always said is that for the God who raised himself from the dead, such things as virgin births, Immaculate Conceptions and changing bread and wine to flesh and blood are cakewalks.

I just recently reviewed, and loved this new and uplifting book on Lourdes. Within it, the author recounts the last visit to Lourdes of an ailing Pope John Paul II, who was so ill that observers wondered at one point whether he had died.

Deacon Greg reposts the prayer of the pilgrim pope which John Paul gave as he left the place of healing.

I highly recommend both it and Fr. Martin’s book, if you’re still looking for some Lenten reading!

About Elizabeth Scalia

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