FROM THE ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII on July 2, 1957: WARNING AGAINST MATERIALISM ON THE CENTENARY OF THE APPARITIONS AT LOURDES TO THE CARDINALS, ARCHBISHOPS, AND BISHOPS OF FRANCE IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE:
“In a society which is barely conscious of the ills which assail it, which conceals its miseries and injustices beneath a prosperous, glittering, and trouble-free exterior, the Immaculate Virgin, whom sin has never touched, manifests herself to an innocent child. With a mother’s compassion she looks upon this world redeemed by her Son’s blood, where sin accomplishes so much ruin daily, and three times makes her urgent appeal: “Penance, penance, penance!” She even appeals for outward expressions: “Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners.” And to this gesture must be added a prayer: “Pray to God for sinners.”
“As in the days of John the Baptist, as at the start of Jesus’ ministry, this command, strong and rigorous, shows men the way which leads back to God: “Repent!” Who would dare to say that this appeal for the conversion of hearts is untimely today?”
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT OUR LADY OF LOURDES AND SAINT BERNADETTE
On the 11th February 1858 Bernadette Soubirous, a young girl of 14 years left the Cachot, the refuge of her family now reduced to poverty, went to collect firewood with her two sisters.
Bernadette heard “the sound of the wind”, and then saw a light which soon lit up the silhouette of a young lady “as young and small as herself”. The lady smiled at her and invited her to pray.
On the 18th February there was an exchange of promises:
“Would you do me the favor of coming here for two weeks? “Bernadette said, Yes. And lady said: “I don’t promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other”.
The other world is the world of love that Bernadette was to experience on this earth even in the midst of suffering. During the 2 weeks, the way of that other world was pointed out to her as being, conversion, and a change of heart.
“Penance! Pray to God for the conversion of sinners.”
“Would you crawl on hands and knees and kiss the ground for the conversion of sinners?”
“Penance, Penance, Penance!”
“Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself there.” “Eat some grass which grows there.”
The spring bubbled up through the mud. If each person took the time and had the courage to scrape away the shell of egoism and sins which force us to crawl on hands and knees and eat the grass like the animals each one could experience in the depths of his or her own heart a living coming up from the Heart of Jesus, from the very heart of God: He loved us to the point of coming among us even among our sins and our death.
Tuesday 2 March: the last request.
“Go and tell the priests to come here in procession and build a chapel”
16th apparition on the 25th March, the feast of the Annunciation and the Conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the young girl said:
“I am the Immaculate Conception”
Mary allows the light and the life of God to pass through her in order to give it to the world. Bernadette saw Mary again after Easter on the Wednesday 7th April, and then the 16th July on which date she stood on the far side of the Gave, and despite the distance could say: “I saw her just as if I was in the Grotto”.
AS MARY SAID YESTERDAY TO BERNADETTE SO TODAY SHE SAYS TO US: “WOULD YOU DO ME THE FAVOR OF COMING HERE “
Bernadette said of Mary “She was as young and small as myself.” “It was the first time someone spoke to me in such a respectful manner.”
We imagine God and the saints are people very high up and far away, whereas God, in fact, is so powerful that He can make Himself very little so as to speak to us and call us. He speaks to us while at the same time infinitely respecting our freedom since he loves us.
Bernadette could have disappeared from Lourdes without anyone paying any attention: she was so insignificant except for God, who recognized in her a little girl who resembled Him.
“Since thou becamest honourable in my eyes, thou art glorious: I have loved thee, and I will give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isaiah 43:4). If you are in Lourdes it is not by accident: I was waiting for you here, God says to us, to show you my love.
AS MARY SAID TO BERNADETTE YESTERDAY, SO SHE SAYS TO US TODAY: “I DO NOT PROMISE TO MAKE YOU HAPPY IN THIS WORLD BUT THE OTHER”
We are not asked to suffer on the earth wit resignation to finally get happiness beyond death. The other world begins here and now: It is already hell for those who sink into egoism. For those who open their hearts to love, paradise has already begun.
In the extreme poverty of the Cachot where she lived in 1858, Bernadette knew the true joy of family love. Later on, she said: ” I am happy on my bed of pain with my crucifix more than a queen on her throne “. The secret of happiness is to welcome little by little, even through disappointments, failures and suffering, the look and call of the one who loved us until the end.
AS MARY SAID TO BERNADETTE YESTERDAY, SO SHE SAYS TO US TODAY: “PENANCE, PENANCE, PENANCE PRAY FOR THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS”
Bernadette was invited to scrape in the mud at the back of the Grotto until a spring came forth. In order to do this she had to crawl on hands and knees, like the animals, like the pigs; which often came to take shelter in the hole in the rock. She mimed the condition of sinners who abandoning their status of free men and women under the sun of God choose to live as animals without reason. She followed the way of Jesus who plunged himself into our sins, our suffering, our death in order to pass through them and conquer them.
To do penance is to let oneself be drawn along the way of solidarity. We let Jesus change our hearts of stone to let him graft on a heart of flesh, that could suffer from the poverty of the world and so enter into the dynamic of love.
AS MARY SAID TO BERNADETTE YESTERDAY, SO SHE SAYS TO US TODAY: “GO AND DRINK AT THE SPRING AND WASH YOURSELF THERE”
The water of Lourdes is ordinary water. It is a sign that Mary uses to remind us of the words of Jesus.
If anyone thirsts let him come to me. Let the one come and drink who believes in me “He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive” (John 7/37-39).
Drink and wash yourself…regain the grace of Baptism, plunge yourself into the elite of God who did not fear to plunge himself into our humanity.
Let us rediscover the grace of the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. It is like a new birth for us.
AS MARY SAID YESTERDAY TO BERNADETTE, SO SHE SAYS TO US TODAY: “COME HERE IN PROCESSION AND BUILD A CHURCH”
The Church is not the group or club for those who believe in Jesus. It is the poor and weak who are never chosen by the world but whom God mysteriously calls. We become the messengers of mercy.
Stay awake! We are already on the road to Lourdes, to take part in the processions. Let our whole life be a pilgrimage, a confident journey to the chapel, or church, the holy city God prepares for us and in which He waits for us.
Our churches on this earth are only for us the sign and memory of this meeting of love.
AS MARY SAID TO BERNADETTE YESTERDAY, SO SHE SAYS TO US TODAY: “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”
Finally, the apparition gave her name to Bernadette on the 25th March 1858, but it was not her civil name “My name is Mary: I was born in Nazareth”. It was the secret of her heart that she shared after 3 weeks of meeting (11 Feb – 4 March). It was the new name by which the Angel Gabriel greeted her at the Annunciation: she is the one in whom God puts all His joy. Our Lady of Lourdes answered: “Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou”, meaning “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
Mary is Immaculate, without stain, completely transparent with the light of God, so welcoming to her Lord that He can come and live in her and become a man. She becomes the “conception of God” the “Mother of God”.
Mary shows us our vocation: Do not be afraid to become saints, open yourselves simply to the love that is offered to you. You will carry love to the world, you will be “mother of God” for the world. Mary is the most perfect creature in the eyes of God, she is also the figure and the Mother of the Church. We can confide ourselves to her, God will make us His children.
Still, today, some 5,500,000 million pilgrims and visitors come to Lourdes from all over the world. Some are true believers, some are just curious. Many come to be healed; both physically and spiritually. The water of Lourdes has Our Lady’s promise with it. Miracles happen every day at Lourdes, not always physical miraculous healings, but the miracles that occur at Lourdes every single day are the conversions of poor sinners.
Sources: “Lourdes, Guide For Pilgrims and Visitors”, Editions Oeuvre de la Grotte, kindly provided by the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Lourdes, France.
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