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February  12, 2017 - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary time: Pastor’s Corner

This weekend, we conclude our Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes.  Many thanks to Fr. Brian Mullady, OP for his nine days of wonderful preaching which can be heard at the St. Jude Shrine website: www.stjude-shrine.org.  The story of Lourdes is powerful.  In 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to a young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. Mary identified herself as “The Immaculate Conception,” and exhorted Bernadette to “Pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.” As a sign of God’s care, the Blessed Virgin instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground, where she uncovered a spring, the waters of which have been the source of both cure and healing.  Every year millions of pilgrims travel to France to connect with the loving care of God through Our Lady of Lourdes. Though many of us are familiar with these basic contours of the Lourdes story, in honor of this feast, here are two things about this feast which you may not know.

The Song of Bernadette, which is dramatic story of Lourdes, is the result of answered prayers. In 1941 Franz Werfel wrote “The Song of Bernadette,” which was so popular (spending 3 months as the number one best seller), that it was turned into both a successful Broadway play and a film which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning 4 times (Hollywood values have changed a bit!).  Werfel himself was a German-speaking Jew born in Prague in 1890, who, because he wrote satirical plays lampooning the Nazi regime, was targeted and then hunted by the Gestapo.  Franz and his wife Alma fled to France and were given shelter by Catholics in Lourdes.  When the locals shared the story of Bernadette, Franz vowed that, if he and his wife escaped, he would put off all tasks and write Bernadette's story into a novel. An interesting bit of trivia: the structure of this bestseller is itself a reference to the holy rosary – five sections of ten chapters each. 

This is the 25th Anniversary of the World Day of the Sick. The healing waters of Lourdes prompted Pope St. John Paul II to declare that the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11 as “World Day of the Sick.”  Pope Francis, citing Pope Saint John Paul II, writes of the importance of observing this day in these words, “This celebration likewise gives the Church renewed spiritual energy for carrying out ever more fully that fundamental part of her mission which includes serving the poor, the infirm, the suffering, the outcast and the marginalized.” In commemorating a World Day of the Sick, we are reminded that we are called to be with, and support others, in the midst of their suffering. Indeed, we are called to do whatever is ethically and morally permissible to ease and heal another's suffering. But by being with and praying for the sick, even when they are unable to be healed physically, we are reminded, too, of the true meaning of compassion. The word compassion is derived from the Latin prefix “com” which means “with, together” and the word “pati” meaning “to suffer.” True compassion, then, does not necessarily mean ending a person's suffering, but rather entering into it and helping them through it.  It is in this way that we truly recognize the dignity of the human person.

Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P., Pastor

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