OUR LADY OF LOURDES AND ME
Lourdes is the world famous Marian Shrine in the South of France, on the borders with Spain.
AS a matter of faith most Catholics believe Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared to Saint Bernadette there in 1858.
I have made 27 pilgrimages to Lourdes and it is a place that that love and like very much.
I do not like it for its blatant Roman Catholicism - with cardinals, bishops and clergy parading everyday in long processions.
But rather I like it because of its very peaceful ambience - especially at night time.
The Roman Catholic Church has decreed that at least 68 people were cured inexplicably of major illnesses in its history. I have met people there who said that they were cured there. I have seen scientific and medical evidence of their cure. I have no reason to doubt those miracles.
I believe in a God who is all powerful who is perfectly capable on intervening in the world - especially in response to faith and prayer.
I am one of those Christians who believes ABSOLUTELY and LITERALLY in the miracles that Jesus Himself worked in the New Testament - healing the sick, making the blind see, making the deaf hear, making the dumb speak and even bringing people back from the dead.
I believe that miracles are EXCEPTIONS. Most of the time God allows us and our world to get on with things - using all the gifts that he has endowed us with.
MOST MIRACLES - SPIRITUAL:
I have seen "miracles" happen in Lourdes. But the miracles I have seen happen were miracles in the spiritual, emotional and psychological areas.
I have two favourite places in Lourdes:
1. The Grotto itself - especially at night
2. The Chapel of Reconciliation:
|Chapel of Reconciliation|
When I have been in Lourdes I have spent 6 - 8 hours a day in the Chapel of Reconciliation - hearing "confessions" and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Priests from all over the world hear confession in that chapel - in all the languages of the world. People go their with their burdens - burdens that they have carried for years - and receive acceptance, love, God's forgiveness and spiritual, mental and emotional healing.
Let me tell you of one such "miracle":
A lady in her 80s from South America had been a school teacher since she was 14. When she was 14 1/4 she had an abortion. When she was 16 1/2 she had a second abortion. She felt terribly guilty over these abortions.
As a teacher in a convent school she went to Mass everyday of her life but she never received Holy Communion because of her sins. She felt unclean and unworthy. It was a most awful burden she carried all her life.
When he was 80 she retired and spent her life savings on a world tour. She was travelling on a Train from Spain to France that broke down in Lourdes station. It was the last train of the day and she had to stay overnight. She wandered around Lourdes and saw a sign for the Chapel of Reconciliation. An inner for drew her to that chapel.
She came into the little room where I was hearing confessions and we talked for 3 hours. She wept so much over her life and her sins that my shoulder on which she leaned was wet with her tears.
I listened to everything she said and assured her that God had forgiven her - and that she should now forgive herself.
I met her the nest day - and without her burden of guilt she literally looked 20 years younger.
That was a miracle - a spiritual, emotional and psychological miracle.
MARY OF LOURDES AND ME:
I have always loved Lourdes and I have always felt that when I was there I was used by God and Mary to touch and heal people.
I have also always felt that in spite of the Roman Catholic antagonism to me as a liberal and "controversial" priest and bishop that Mary and God have always affirmed me in my vocation in Lourdes.
Last week a priest friend presented me with the picture below of a painting on the wall of the basilica in Lourdes. My priest friend says that the bishop in the mural is the image of me when dressed as a bishop.
|Bishop Pat on left?|
Below is a close up
For a comparison picture of me in bishop's gear I include below a picture of a painting painted by Francis Meigh RCA in 1998:
On another occasion in Lourdes - in spite of being only a young priest at the time I managed to be asked to be the principal concelebrant at the English speaking Mass at the Grotto - a role reserved to visiting church dignitaries.
On another occasion in Lourdes - while I sat with the congregation in the large underground basilica a church worked invited me into the sacristy to join a French speaking bishop to lead the Blessing of the Sick afternoon procession - a role reserved for visiting bishops. The procession was relayed over large TV screens to the whole of Lourdes
As a result other English speaking bishops were enraged and I was banned from all the churches and chapels in Lourdes by the local French bishop and had to celebrate Mass for my pilgrims and myself in out hotel bedrooms.
But in all of these ways I felt very affirmed by Jesus and His Mother.
It made me realise that it does not matter what people think about you. What matters is what God thinks of you.
To me Lourdes is a little bit of Heaven on earth.