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The Healing Love of Lourdes

It is to our mother’s house that our siblings come; the lame, the sick, the proud, and those who party too much.

One hundred-fifty years ago Our Lady visited Lourdes, France, a place that looms large in the Catholic imagination. Long before Poland Springs became popular, Catholics had their own brand of bottled water. It was well known that if you were sick, Mrs. Murphy or Mrs. Gimminiani or any number of women in the neighborhood would have a bottle of Lourdes water for you. We knew also that the word “grotto” was exclusively associated with Lourdes. Once after watching the movie, The Song of Bernadette, my father remarked that Jennifer Jones, the young actress who played Bernadette, beat out the Blessed Mother for Best actress at the 1944 Academy Awards
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes. My first feelings of the place were similar to the ones I had felt on a visit to Atlantic City. It had a sort of baroque splendor in neon and plastic. Just before exiting our bus to register at the hotel, a scream sounded in the street. A taxi had just run over a woman’s foot. “Good thing it happened to her in Lourdes,” I thought. Not long after that, I headed to the café in the hotel basement. There a large elderly Sicilian woman sat playing a solitary game of cards. As I sat drinking my café au lait the Sicilian woman lumbered toward me, stroked my goatee and said, “I like Dominican”. I did not return the compliment.

Recently, an English priest wrote on his blog that he was going to stop visiting Lourdes because he was distressed at how much the English pilgrims drank and partied. Apparently he hasn’t met the Irish pilgrims. Whether they’re English, Sicilian, Irish or any other nationality, the human condition is on display in Lourdes.

The beginnings of the great story of Lourdes are not much different. Lourdes was a crude little place steeped in poverty. When Bernadette told her mother that she had seen a little girl with a rosary in the grotto, her mother responded in the way a responsible mother should—she gave her daughter a sound thrashing. Neighbors proposed an explanation; the apparition, they said, must be the soul of a recently deceased woman. The people of Lourdes believed also in fairies and strange woodland creatures; perhaps Bernadette had seen one of these. During the second apparition, Bernadette threw holy water at Our Lady to see if she really was a heavenly apparition.

Before the apparitions ceased there would be plenty of other instances that seem almost comedic. The local law enforcer would hover over humble, uneducated Bernadette while offering her threats of imprisonment. When Our Lady told Bernadette to dig for water, Bernadette emerged with a muddy face and grass in her mouth.The onlookers laughed and her aunt gave her a good wallop. And so it happened, Bernadette confounded her interrogators and the waters flowed.

A friend once remarked that Marian shrines are special because they are our mother’s house. And so it’s to our mother’s house that our siblings come; the lame, the sick, the proud, and those who party too much. Mary has a special place for all; even the revelers. After all, she’s the one who interceded at a party when the wine ran out. She knows the love of those who buy cheesy holographic images of her, cigarette lighters decorated with pictures of the grotto, and little bottles shaped like her. When our birth mothers die, we too are hard-pressed to find artistically fine tokens of love among her effects. Rather, we find the scribbled art of our childhood, a stick figure with the primitive label “mommy” above. Our blessed mother blesses our humble imperfect offerings of love with a maternal heart.

An old story is told of two young men who grew up together as friends. One became a priest and the other a sailor. The priest would occasionally see his friend, and he could see that he was up to tough living. The sailor drank hard, gambled, used filthy language and had a girl in every port, the kind of girls who have a man on every ship. After many years the priest was called to the side of a dying man. Seeing that the man in bed was his sailor friend the priest wondered: “How is it that such a sinner comes to a blessed death?” He asked his friend: “How is it that you, of all people, come to receive the Lord’s mercy?” The dying sailor raised a trembling hand entwined with a broken rosary.

Lourdes reminds us that we are in need of healing and that we are called to help the sick among us, those who are deprived in any way. Our Lady recognizes the suffering of her son in all her children. If we fail to imitate her in this then we disregard the very criterion of the final judgment. Today, we eat the Eucharist in order to give to others what the Blessed Mother wants all her children to have—the merciful love of our brother, Jesus Christ; it is for this reason that we are a family.

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TOPICS:    bernadette | healing | lourdes | mary

By Kiwinomad AT 02.15.08 09:19PM Not Rated


I visited Lourdes in 2006. I am a ‘lapsed’ Catholic, and went there with curiosity and some trepidation. I ended up being ‘captivated’ by the prayer that permeated the whole sanctuary area. Mostly I ‘prayed’ by the river. On the Sunday I went to the International Mass, where I felt kind of lost as an English speaker, and somewhat overwhelmed by my ‘lostness’ as a Catholic.  But after that I met two Kiwis, one of them a priest. We shared lunch in a park and for me that was a real blessing. It seemed very much as if Mary, my mother, had seen how lost I felt, and told her Son to get on the job… that I needed help.
I am still not much of a Catholic… but I had an experience of love at Lourdes that makes me think…

By Fr Chris Saliga, OP AT 02.17.08 12:02AM Not Rated

Fr Chris Saliga, OP

Having been to Lourdes myself, reading Br. Hugh Vincent Dyer’s post brought a smile to my face.  He captures the essence of Lourdes as a place both truly Holy and wonderfully human.  If you’ve never been to Lourdes, I highly recommend going.  If you do go, expect the unexpected and take a side trip to Toulouse where you can see the mortal remains of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Church of Les Jacobins.

By Grandpa Joe AT 04.10.08 10:37AM Not Rated

Grandpa Joe

“Recently, an English priest wrote on his blog that he was going to stop visiting Lourdes because he was distressed at how much the English pilgrims drank and partied”

This is only one side of the story of the English, we stayed in the St George’s hotel which was the headquarter of students from the town of Leeds.  These young boys and girls dressed in their distinctive yellow could be seen pushing the wheelchairs of the invalids to the grotto and to the procession, usually three to a wheelchair.  They were happy, boisterous, naughty as active young people are, but their faces were filled with joy knowing they were helping the less fortunate.  They do this annually.  There were more than a hundred.

The job of a priest should be to guide and not run away.

By star AT 05.09.09 07:59AM Not Rated


Like our own mother, Mama Mary never ceases to love us, to lead us all to the heart of Her Son Jesus! She made numerous Apparitions in different parts of the world, among them, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Medjugorie, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes. People can be so skeptical during St. Bernadette’s time.  Anybody who had seen the Blessed Virgin like St. Bernadette, or had seen the Lord like St. Faustina, must have been transformed. Their lives must never be the same! No matter what they encountered as outcome of their testimonies, it must have not mattered to them anymore . Yes, for they have found personally the greatest treasure,—-  ” The Pearl of Great Price ”—- the Love of our Lord Jesus!  We thank St. Bernadette for her steadfast love for our Lord through our Blessed Virgin Mary, in her patience and persistence , ( despite mockery / disbelief of many and interrogations ) , to bring to us the message of our Blessed Mother , that of our Salvation , through the Power of the Holy Rosary, in Jesus’ Name! Amen. Happy Mother’s Day to all !!!


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