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From the Pastor 02/04/18

Next Sunday we will celebrate the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, but it is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.”

During interrogations Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word aquero, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (tu), but the polite form (vous). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity.

Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.

Image: Our Lady of Lourdes in Rosary Square – Lourdes

José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles — now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden. Many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters.

There still may be people who doubt the apparitions of Lourdes. Perhaps the best that can be said to them are the words that introduce the film, The Song of Bernadette: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

My own conversion story to the Blessed Mother took place in Lourdes as well. As a student brother I had a basic devotion to Our Lady. I never missed saying my daily rosary and observing all her Feast Days. But for some reason my devotion to her never went beyond that. All of this changed when I went to Lourdes as a student brother studying for the Priesthood.

Each year when I was at the House of Studies in Washington, DC, the U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes asked three student brothers to accompany the pilgrimage. We were asked to serve as orderlies to help the sick and handicapped in any way we could. The second year of my studies in Washington I was chosen to go. I was happy to be chosen.

Needless to say my experience was absolutely wonderful. One evening instead of participating in the Candle Vigil Procession where literally 1000’s of pilgrims with lighted candles process around the front of the basilica, I decided to simply climb up the stairs to the basilica and watch from above. All of a sudden as I watched the 1000’s upon 1000’s of pilgrims carrying lighted candles, praying the rosary in multiple languages, and singing songs to our Lady, it suddenly dawned upon me that this Woman, the Blessed Mother Mary must be very special to Catholics. So I got on my knees and gave myself to her. With sincere humility I simply asked her to increase my love and devotion to her. And of course Mother Mary would answer my prayers in a profound way. The rest of my pilgrimage to Lourdes was filled with a peace and love for Mary that I had never experienced in all my years of being a Catholic up to that point.

One of the last things I did before I left Lourdes was to go to the grotto, and on my knees, I asked our Lady for her blessing. I asked that I would be able to make solemn profession in the Order of Friars Preachers, and someday be ordained a priest consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. And I added one more request. I asked Our Lady to confirm my religious and priestly vocation by finding a way to bring me back to Lourdes to give thanksgiving to her. I never ever shared that request with anyone other than Our Lady.

Well in 1990 I made solemn profession in the Order, and on May 22, 1992, I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. My first Mass of Thanksgiving was in my home parish of the Minor Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, ME. With my mom and dad on either side with me, we consecrated our vocations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The story does not end there. One week after my First Mass, I was contacted by friends who invited me to join with them on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France! Of course I said yes, and immediately after getting off the phone, got on my knees and told Our Lady, “Wow, you work fast!”

My second visit to Lourdes was another blessing in my life. I remember arriving in Lourdes. I had no idea where I was going to be staying and had no idea where my luggage would end up. I had one thing in mind. I ran as fast as I could through the town, and into the Domain of Lourdes, where I threw myself on my knees before Our Lady at the grotto, and simply wept as I said to Our Lady, “Mary, my Mother, you brought me back to you! Thank you for this gift, and thank you that I have the great honor of being totally consecrated to your Immaculate Heart as your priest!”

If you are interested in going on pilgrimage to Lourdes, please know that Fr. Michael Mary Dosch and Fr. George Schommer are sponsoring a pilgrimage July 2-11. Flyers are in church at the table outside the Holy Family Candle Chapel, in the Parish Office, and in this bulletin.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor