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February 10, 2019:  Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner

This Monday we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  For the past nine days, we have been blessed to have Fr. Dominic David preach insightfully about the power that True Devotion to Our Lady has in bringing us closer to Christ.  Even for those who are familiar with the contours of the story of Lourdes, recounting the details brings it alive afresh. On February 11, 1858, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, at a cave in Massabielle, France.  Identifying herself as the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin urged Bernadette to live a life of prayer and penance for world peace and spiritual healing.  Though many, including her parents, did not initially believe Bernadette’s fantastic story, the miraculous nature her vision soon became undeniable.  Very quickly, the focus of the pilgrims who traveled to the grotto to see where Mary appeared centered on the spring of water that Bernadette unearthed at the Lady’s promptings. Though at first the spring waters ran muddy, it soon became evident that some who washed in its waters were cured of various maladies.  Word spread like fire and, though at first the Church was circumspect with regard to these miraculous reports, the scientific community verified the veracity of many of these claims of cure.  With joy the Church approved the apparitions, and today Our Lady’s grotto in Lourdes is one of the most visited Marian sites in the world, attracting over 6 million pilgrims annually.

This past year, I had the privilege of visiting Lourdes on our St. Dominic’s footsteps pilgrimage.  Having never been to the actual Grotto (I do love to visit our parking lot Grotto replica!), there were three moments which left an indelible mark on my spirit.  First, we arrived at the Grotto late in the evening, well after the final rosary procession (who knew that midafternoon rush hour around Toulouse rivals Bay Area traffic!).  With most of the pilgrims having departed fro,m the Grotto and the surrounding Church environs, we are able to immediately walk up to the apparition site without having to queue in a lengthy line.  It was as if Our Lady herself was waiting for our delayed group to arrive and welcomed us.  In the peace of the cool darkness, our group was able to pray and be refreshed at the sacred spring.  Second, besides the Grotto itself, there is an impressive, life-sized Stations of the Cross, which is built upon the hill that overlooks the grotto.  As you climb up the hill, you join with Christ in the memory of his final steps to Calvary. As you descend the mount, you recall the moments of grief and burial.  (At the conclusion of the stations, there is a Celtic style cross which depicts these mysteries of our faith.  On successive days, I was able to pray these stations both with pilgrims from our group and with several high school groups that were visiting as well.  Third, there was the evening Rosary candlelight procession.  Every evening, the statue of Our Lady leads a procession of pilgrims and others seeking physical and spiritual healing around the gardened grounds. Thousands of personal hand-held luminaries light the way as the Rosary is prayed in several different languages.  To process, pray and sing with pilgrims from around the world moved my heart tremendously.  What a tribute to the universality of our faith and the power that Our Lady has to draw those who are infirmed to the healing of God’s love and mercy.  The final evening I prayed the act of consecration which I share with you.  Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for us!

~Fr. Michael

 Act of Consecration to Our Lady of Lourdes

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate, you appeared 18 times to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes to remind Christians of what the truths in the Gospel require of them. You call them to prayer, penance, the Eucharist and the life of the church. To answer your call more fully, I dedicate myself, through you, to your Son Jesus. Make me willing to accept what he said. By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people that the church may be one and there be peace in the world. All this I ask, confident that you, Our Lady, will fully answer my prayer. Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us. Amen.

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