Bringing You With Me to Lourdes

You’re reading this on the second day of the month classically dedicated to our blessed mother, Mary.

So, I’m leaving today for a long weekend at her legendary shrine in southwestern France, Lourdes, there to join our own Knights of Malta, dozens of the sick whom they lovingly bring with them, and tens of thousands of other pilgrims who have flocked there in search of spiritual, mental, and physical healing since the mother of Jesus appeared to St. Bernadette at that renowned grotto in 1858.

With me I bring hundreds of intentions, so many of you who have entrusted to my own struggling prayers your own concerns about your own health, or that of those dear to you.

Maria, Salus, Infirmorum!

Ora pro nobis!

(Mary, health of the sick! Pray for us!)

May is a fitting month to honor Our Lady (Notre Dame) isn’t it?

Nature is alive, for one, as “mother earth” brings the new birth of spring. Trees, grass, flowers, (allergies!) are all in bloom! No wonder we reflect on the one who gave birth to the Son of God, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Two, it’s a month of transition. Marriages, graduations, moves, first communions, confirmations, anniversaries, ordinations to priesthood, religious profession of religious sisters and brothers…all happen in May.

Our Lady was there at the two most dramatic transitions ever: the birth of Our Lord that first Christmas, and His death on the cross that Good Friday. She is with us as we go through life’s changes, its ups-and-downs, its joys and sorrows.

Yes, Mary was there when history transitioned from B.C. to A.D.—in fact, it could not have happened as it did without her humble yes! And she was there again, on Calvary, under the cross, as the world and humanity was transformed from damnation to salvation.

It is radiantly evident that those in need find solace, healing, and protection in her mantle. The pastor of the parish where I grew up, Father Jeremiah Callahan, had been an Army chaplain in the heat of World War II, on the frontlines of the Battle of the Bulge. Father Callahan often recalled that hundreds of soldiers died in his arms as he anointed them and absolved them. And their final words, the chaplain recalled, were usually about their moms back home.

Similarly, devoted people who tend to our dying in hospices tell me that, as death nears and the person seems unconscious, very often last words will be about his or her mom.

Well, spiritually we also have a mother. Jesus gave us His own as His last gift from the cross that first Good Friday. No wonder we go to her in moments of crisis, sickness, struggle, searching.

Once, I was showing a good priest-friend around St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We passed a poor homeless fellow sitting in the pews seemingly mumbling.

“That one’s talking to himself,” my friend observed.

The street person heard him and bolted upright. “I’m not talking to myself,” he insisted. “I’m talking to her…” as he pointed to the image of Mary.

That’s what I’ll be doing again at Lourdes as you read this. There I’ll hardly see the chic, sleek, fit, glitterati; I will see the forgotten, searching, sick, weak, lonely, and struggling. I’ll be one of them. I’ll bring you with me.

Father Callahan also used to remember how, as he looked at his “men” preparing for battle—they were, he recalled, only “boys,” 18 or 19 years old—he knew they were apprehensive and scared deep down. He would think to himself, “Every one of them has a mom, who’s at home, worried about them.” He would entrust them to Mary, their heavenly mother, who was concerned about them, too.

Next week, all of us will think lovingly and gratefully of our own moms. Rightly so. My request? Sometime this month of May, turn to your blessed Mother, Mary, as well. As the old sayings go, “To Jesus through Mary,” and “a child of Mary never perishes.”

I’ll mention you to her as well at Lourdes.