Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Our Lady of Lourdes


On February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous (or Soubiroux) as she searched for firewood in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. More visions followed, for a total of 18, with the last occurring on July 16, 1858. The first occurred when Bernadette was playing with two friends. They had gone ahead of her along the river bank and she was about to follow when she became aware of a movement in the grotto, then of a golden cloud of light, and finally, to quote Bernadette, of “a lady, young and beautiful, exceedingly beautiful, the like of whom I had not seen before.” The Virgin Mary told the young girl to drink from a natural fountain in the grotto (previously undiscovered) and to tell the priests to build a chapel on the spot and make processions to the grotto.


Bernadette later described what happened next, in giving her account of her first vision:

"She looked at me immediately, smiled at me and signed to me to advance, as if she had been my mother. All fear had left me, but I seemed to know no longer where I was. I rubbed my eyes, I shut them; but the lady was still there continuing to smile at me making me understand that I was not mistaken. Without thinking of what I was doing I took my rosary in my hands and went on my knees. The lady made with her head a sign of approval and herself took into her hands a rosary which hung on her right arm. When I attempted to begin the rosary and tried to lift up my hand to my forehead my arm remained paralysed, and it was only after the lady had signed herself (with the sign of the cross) that I could do the same. The lady left me to pray all alone; she passed the beads of her rosary through her fingers, but she said nothing; only at the end of each decade did she say the Gloria with me. When the recitation of the rosary was finished, the lady returned to the interior of the rock and the golden cloud disappeared with her."


When Bernadette's friends returned to find her praying they teased her. When her mother learned the story from Bernadette' sister she scolded her and told her never to go near the grotto again. The young girl felt called by an inner voice to return to the grotto and at last her mother gave her permission. Her sister, her mother, and aunt and various other people accompanied her on her visits, and as the rumor spread crowds waited at the cave for her arrival. No one shared her experiences, and on 16th July they came to an end. Only two pieces of 'evidence' survived - a spring of water which had begun to flow at a place indicated by Mary during the ninth apparition, and Bernadette's conviction that she had really met the Virgin. Those who questioned her on behalf of the church authorities eventually accepted her account of the events she described.

Bernadette Soubirous became a nun, a member of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers in 1866, and died there after a long period of illness in 1879. She was canonized a saint in 1933. Like many saints, her body has remained miraculously preserved, and pilgrims to Nevers can view her body in a glass case. 

It was only four years after Bernadette’s visions in 1862, that the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful "justified in believing the reality of the apparition" and a basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest. 

A statue of the Madonna of Lourdes was erected at the site in 1864. In 1873 the great French pilgrimages to Lourdes were inaugurated. Three years later, the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned. 


The picture below is of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which still stands today. At the entrance on the right is a marble plaque containing the complete text of the judgment made by Mgr Laurence, recognizing the Apparitions as authentic. 


The sanctuary of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception holds 500 worshippers. The altar is directly over the place of Apparition.


The stained glass windows recall the story of the Blessed Virgin from the beginning to the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, by Pope Pius IX and of the Apparitions of Lourdes in 1858. 


Every hour, the Basilica's bells play the "Ave Maria of Lourdes." 

In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. Consecrated in 1901, it was built at the foot of the basilica and named the Basilica of the Rosary. The Basilica of the Rosary was built between 1883 and 1889 to replace the original chapel on the site of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. It was consecrated in 1901. Designed in a Byzantine-influenced Romanesque style in the shape of a Greek (equal-armed) cross, the Rosary Basilica features two unique elliptical ramps embracing a square that can hold almost 80,000 people. Above the main doors of basilica, two mosaic circular panels made in the workshops of the Vatican depict Pope Leo XIII and Bishop Schoepfer of Tarbes and Lourdes (1899-1927).


When she appeared at Lourdes, the Virgin Mary was described by St. Bernadette as holding a rosary in her hand. The Basilica of the Rosary is dedicated to this theme. Its three arches depict the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Catholics meditate on these mysteries (events in the lives of Jesus and Mary) while saying the rosary. Around the central dome, the transepts and the sanctuary contain 15 Chapels of the Mysteries, which are decorated with mosaics depicting the 15 mysteries of the rosary (the five joyous, five sorrowful, and five glorious). 



Faithful pilgrims, especially those in need of healing, flock to the Grotto of Massabielle to immerse themselves in the grotto's 17 pools - 6 for men and 11 for women. The spring water from the grotto is believed to possess healing properties, and the Roman Catholic Church occasionally officially recognizes miraculous healings. 



Long before Bernadette’s death the little village of Lourdes had attracted the notice of the outside world. As early as 1864 the first organized pilgrimage took place and its popularity has increased spectacularly ever since. By 1908, fifty years after the appearances to Bernadette, it is estimated that five million pilgrims had been to the grotto. In 1958 the railway company serving the area said that a million travelers were then using it to reach Lourdes every year. The hotels of Lourdes provide accommodation for 30 000 people, about six times the village's own population. The centenary celebrations in 1958 and 1979 brought an especially large influx of pilgrims. To their number must be added the visitors who do not come as pilgrims, but who are attracted by a religious feeling or sometimes merely by the desire to see this far-famed spot.



Many of the pilgrims who go to Lourdes are seriously ill or severely handicapped, for Lourdes, like Knock, has become a place where in numerous cases the sick have been restored to health. Between Easter and December each year two 'jumbulances' travel from Britain to Lourdes weekly. These are large ambulances, capable of carrying twenty-four passengers, including a doctor, three or four nurses, a chaplain, other helpers and about a dozen sick pilgrims. 


The ambulances pick up their sick passengers at motorway service stations and then take them to Lourdes, a journey of about twenty-one hours from London. The help given by the ambulance team is voluntary, and a trust also pays for the accommodation of the pilgrims at a chalet called 'Across' in Lourdes. Pilgrims come in an almost endless flow, interrupted only by the harsh winter weather between Christmas and Easter.


Every day during this period at 4:30pm, the Procession Eucharistique (Blessed Sacrament Procession) takes place, with pilgrims carrying banners along the Esplanade des Processions. Torch light processions are held nightly at 8:45 PM from the Massabielle Grotto. It can be a spectacular sight with the majestic snowcapped Pyrenees in the background. 


Every nation in the world furnishes its contingent. Out of the total of pilgrimages given above, 464 came from countries other than France. They are sent by the United States, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Bolivia, etc. The bishops lead the way. At the end of the year of the 50th anniversary, 2013 prelates, including 546 archbishops, 10 primates, 19 patriarchs, 69 cardinals, had made the pilgrimage to Lourdes. 


- this post was copied from "Johnny Depp Zone" and was originally posted by DeppintheheartofTexas

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"By their deaths I felt life..."

* from Wikipedia

“Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could except for the children, the poor bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.” – Jean Donovan

“I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning… Something worth living for – maybe even worth dying for…” -- Ita Ford, in a letter to her niece

"I want to be remembered as an Alleluia, from head to foot." -- Dorothy Kazel

“I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I am at peace here and searching – trying to learn what the Lord is asking. At this point, I would hope to be able to go on, God willing. . . . This seems to be what he is asking of me at this moment.” -- Maura Clarke, in a letter to her niece, just weeks before her murder

James, a Michigan federal prison inmate, wrote this letter to the National Catholic Register after reading an article about the four women:

". . . I am 20 years old and in prison. But I need to somehow explain the pain I felt when I read the news of the death of our sisters (in El Salvador).

"Not much in life anymore upsets or shocks me. I did, though, cry and I was moved to learn of what happened. Sitting here in isolation where I read the NCR, I felt a change, I felt the lives of the four (women). I mean, I never knew them but I felt them, I could see them smile and laugh, I felt their kindness and caring for people. This is why I cried, 'Why was it done?' It seemed such a cruel and senseless act.

"All at once I felt hate, sadness, and I really felt pain. I just don't understand! I don't care much about anything, until this day, when I realized how selfish I've been with my own life. I am not a dramatic-speaking person, but if I could give myself to bring them back, I would. By their deaths I felt life; I really felt a need to keep trying and not to give up. . . .

"I will pray for all of you, and at each mass say a prayer for our sisters. . . .


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Homily for Good Friday 2011, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa

In his passion, writes St. Paul to Timothy, Jesus Christ "has given his noble witness" (1 Timothy 6:13). We ask ourselves: witness to what? Not to the truth of his life or the rightness of his cause. Many have died, and still die today, for a wrong cause, while believing it to be right. Now, the resurrection certainly does testify to the truth of Christ. "God has given public proof about Jesus, by raising him from the dead", as the Apostle was to say in the Areopagus at Athens (Acts 17:31).

Death testifies not to the truth of Christ, but to his love. Of that love, in fact, it is the supreme proof. "No-one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). One could object that there is a greater love than giving your life for your friends, and that is to give your life for your enemies. But that is precisely what Jesus has done: "Christ died for the godless," writes the Apostle in the Letter to the Romans. "You could hardly find anyone ready to die, even for the upright; though it is just possible that, for a really good person, someone might undertake to die. So, it is proof of God's own love for us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6-8). "He loved us while we were enemies, so that he could turn us into friends"[1], exclaims St. Augustine.

A certain one-sided "theology of the cross" can make us forget the essential point. The cross is not only God's judgment on the world and its wisdom; it is more than the revelation and condemnation of sin. It is not God's "no" to the world, it is the "yes" God speaks to the world from the depths of his love: "That which is wrong," writes the Holy Father in his latest book about Jesus, "the reality of evil, cannot simply be ignored; it cannot just be left to stand. It must be dealt with; it must be overcome. Only this counts as true mercy. And the fact that God now confronts evil himself, because men are incapable of doing so -- therein lies the 'unconditional' goodness of God."[2]

* * *

But how can we have the courage to speak about God's love, with so many human tragedies before our eyes, like the disaster that has struck Japan, or the shipwrecks and drowning incidents of these last few weeks? Should we not mention them at all? But to stay completely silent would be to betray the faith and to be ignorant of the meaning of the mystery we are celebrating today.

There is a truth that must be proclaimed loud and clear on Good Friday. The One whom we contemplate on the cross is God "in person." Yes, he is also the man Jesus of Nazareth, but that man is one person with the Son of the Eternal Father. As long as the fundamental dogma of the Christian faith is not recognized and taken seriously -- the first dogma defined at Nicea, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is himself God, of one substance with the Father -- human suffering will remain unanswered.

One cannot say that "Job's question has remained unanswered," or that not even the Christian faith has an answer to give to human pain, if one starts by rejecting the answer it claims to have. What do you do to reassure someone that a particular drink contains no poison? You drink it yourself first, in front of him. This is what God has done for humanity: he has drunk the bitter cup of the passion. So, human suffering cannot be a poisoned chalice, it must be more than negativity, loss, absurdity, if God himself has chosen to savor it. At the bottom of the chalice, there must be a pearl.

We know the name of that pearl: resurrection! "In my estimation, all that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us" (Romans 8:18), and again: "He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone" (Revelations 21:4).

If life's race ended here below, we would have every reason to despair at the thought of the millions, if not billions, of human beings who start off at a great disadvantage, nailed to the starting line by poverty and underdevelopment, without even a chance to run in the race. But that is not how it is. Death not only cancels out differences, but overturns them. "The poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's embrace. The rich man also died and was buried … in Hades" (cf. Luke 16:22-23). We cannot apply this scheme of things to the social sphere in a simplistic way, but it is there to warn us that faith in the resurrection lets no-one go on living their own quiet life. It reminds us that the saying "live and let live" must never turn into "live and let die."

The response of the cross is not for us Christians alone, but for everyone, because the Son of God died for all. There is in the mystery of redemption an objective and a subjective aspect. There is the fact in itself, and then awareness of the fact and our faith-response to it. The first extends beyond the second. "The Holy Spirit," says a text of Vatican II, "offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery."[3]

One of the ways of being associated with the paschal mystery is precisely through suffering: "To suffer," wrote John Paul II in the days following the attempt on his life and the long convalescence that ensued, "means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ."[4] Suffering -- all suffering, but especially that of the innocent and of the martyrs -- brings us into contact with the cross of Christ, in a mysterious way "known only to God."

* * *

After Jesus, those who have "given their noble witness" and "have drunk from the chalice" are the martyrs! The account of a martyr's death was called "Passio," a passion, like that of the sufferings of Jesus to which we have just listened. Once more the Christian world has been visited by the ordeal of martyrdom, which was thought to have ended with the fall of totalitarian atheistic regimes. We cannot pass over their testimony in silence. The first Christians honored their martyrs. The records of their martyrdom were circulated among the churches with immense respect. In this very day, in a great Asian country, Christians have been praying and marching in the streets to avert the threat hanging over them.

One thing distinguishes genuine accounts of martyrdom from legendary ones composed later, after the end of the persecutions. In the former, there is almost no trace of polemics against the persecutors; all attention is concentrated on the heroism of the martyrs, not on the perversity of the judges and executioners. St. Cyprian even ordered his followers to give twenty-five gold coins to the executioner who beheaded him. These are the disciples of the one who died saying: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." Truly, "Jesus' blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation."[5]

Even the world bows before modern witnesses of faith. This explains the unexpected success in France of the film "Of Gods and Men," which tells the story of the seven Cistercian monks slain in Tibhirine on the night of the March 26-27, 1996. And who can fail to admire and be edified by the words of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic politician in Pakistan who was recently killed for his faith? His testament is a legacy to us, his brothers and sisters in the faith, and it would be an act of ingratitude to allow it to be quickly forgotten.

He wrote: "I was offered high government positions and asked to quit my struggle but I always refused to give up, even at the cost of my life. I do not want popularity; I do not want any position. I just want a place at Jesus' feet. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and indicate that I am following Jesus Christ. Because of this desire, I will consider myself most fortunate if -- in this effort and struggle to help the needy and the poor, to help the persecuted and victimized Christians of Pakistan -- Jesus Christ will accept the sacrifice of my life. I want to live for Christ and I want to die for Him."

We seem to hear again the martyr Ignatius Antioch, when he came to Rome to suffer martyrdom. The powerlessness of the victims doesn't however justify the indifference of the world toward their fate. "The upright person perishes," lamented the prophet Isaiah, "and no one cares. The faithful is taken off and no one takes it to heart" (Isaiah 57:1).

* * *

Christian martyrs are not the only ones, as we have seen, to suffer and die around us. What can we believers offer to those who have no faith, apart from the certainty our own faith gives us that there is a ransom for suffering? We can suffer with those who suffer, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Before proclaiming the resurrection and the life, with the weeping sisters of Lazarus before Him, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). At this time we can suffer and weep, most of all with the Japanese people, now recovering from one of the most devastating natural disasters in history. We can also tell those brothers and sisters in humanity that we admire the example of dignity and composure that they have given to the world.

Globalization has at least this positive effect: the suffering of one people becomes the suffering of all, arouses the solidarity of all. It gives us the chance to discover that we are one single human family, joined together for good or ill. It helps us overcome all barriers of race, color or creed. As one of our poets put it: "Peace, you peoples! Too deep the mystery of the prostrate earth."[6]

But we must take in the teaching contained in such events. Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity. But they do contain a warning: in this case, against the danger of deluding ourselves that science and technology will be enough to save us. Unless we practice some restraint in this field, we see that they can become more devastating than nature itself.

There was an earthquake also at the moment when Christ died: "The centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said: ‘In truth, this man was son of God'" (Matthew 27:54). But there was an even bigger one at the moment of his resurrection: "And suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone, and sat on it" (Matthew 28:2). This is how it will always be. Every earthquake that brings death will always be followed by an earthquake of resurrection and life. Someone once said: "Only a god can save us now" (Nur noch ein Gott kann uns rette").[7] We have the sure and certain guarantee that he will do exactly that, because "God loved the world so much that he gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3:16).

Let us, then, prepare to sing the ancient words of the liturgy with new conviction and heartfelt gratitude: "Ecce lignum crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit (See the wood of the cross, on which hung the savior of the world). Venite, adoremus (Come, let us worship)."


[1] St. Augustine, Commentary on the First Letter of John 9,9 (PL 35, 2051).

[2] Cf. J. Ratzinger - Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2011, p.133.

[3] Gaudium et spes, 22.

[4] Salvifici doloris, 23.

[5] J.Ratzinger - Benedict XVI, op. cit. p.187.

[6] G. Pascoli, I due fanciulli (The two children).

[7] Antwort. Martin Heidegger im Gespräch, Pfullingen 1988.

[Translation by Father Charles Serignat, OFMcap]

-- published by Zenit