My mother, who suffered a lot from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, wanted to go to Lourdes. However, she never managed to get there.
During the Madrid World Youth Day celebrations, I was chaplain to a group of young adults on pilgrimage to World Youth Day. On the way to Spain, we stopped in Lourdes in Southern France.
Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. She introduced herself as the ‘Immaculate Conception’. Not long before this, Pope Pius the Ninth had declared that God had protected Mary from the contamination of sin, even from conception. Hence the statement about the ‘Immaculate Conception’. It is significant that Mary introduced herself by this title!
The message that Mary gave at Lourdes was for sinners to change their lives. Her message has inspired in the Church a great love of prayer, and of service of others, especially in the service of the poor and the sick.
Part of the practice in Lourdes is for people to take a bath in water coming from an underground stream, which originated from a stream that resulted from Bernadette digging in the ground with her hands, at Mary’s direction.
Many amazing cures have happened by people drinking or washing in this water. Four to six million people visit the shrine every year. However, the greater healings are spiritual.
I decided to wash in the stream myself, on behalf of my mother who was by then gone to God. I certainly experienced a peace from this experience.
Lourdes is about prayer; it is about the great healing power of God. It is about ongoing conversion.
True devotion to Mary, Our Lady, always draws us closer to Jesus. She always points towards Jesus, and for us to listen to Him.
It is also about us saying yes to God, like she did, not just when it is easy but all the time.