With the Blessed Mother in Lourdes

Since 1972, when I was 22 and left home for the North American College in Rome to finish my last four years of priestly preparation, I have lived in the same area as my mom for only nine happy years.

Thus, for me, to go home—to mom’s house—is unfailingly a joy, something I always look forward to. There, I’m in very comfortable and familiar surroundings, with a woman who knows me better than anybody else. She’s been conscious of me a lot longer than I have of myself!

With mom, at her house, there is no need to impress anybody. Why even bother to try to impress the woman who changed my diapers? The place is familiar, the conversation natural, the thoughts go back to where I came from, the food tastes better, someone loves me unconditionally, and even my old ball glove is there. I always leave refreshed and renewed, wondering why I do not do it more often, and anxious about the sad day sure-to-come when mom will not be at home any more—at least in her earthly one.

To go to mom’s house is a blessing indeed, a gift, a renewal. I am reminded of who I am, where I came from, and where I’ve gone—right and wrong—since leaving there.

This week’s column comes from my spiritual mother’s house, at least one of her many…

I write from Lourdes, where I am on pilgrimage with the Knights and Dames of Malta, and hundreds of sick people from across our nation.

I’ve been here before. What visiting my mom back in Missouri does for me naturally, being with my blessed Mother, Mary, in this small mountain village in southwestern France, where she once appeared, does for me supernaturally.

I go to Lourdes because I owe my Blessed Mother a visit. She has never let me down, and I am in deep debt to her. She has gotten me out of jams, helped a lot of people I love and referred to her, and at times gotten me back on the right path. The conversation is great here, as I spend a lot of time talking with her and her son, Jesus, who is my best friend—as well as my Lord and my God.

She loves me unconditionally. She listens while I pour out my guts. She is not bored when I tell her what I’m worried about. She promises me she’ll help.

She washes me clean in cold, spring water, as I bathe in the miraculous waters and become once again like a baby at the baptismal font.

She catches me crying and asks what’s wrong. She listens as I tell her ways I’m afraid I’ve hurt her Son and her other children. She’ll encourage me to tell her Son “I’m sorry” in the sacrament of penance, and I stand in line with hundreds of others to do so in one of the dozens of languages He understands.

We’re having a family reunion while I’m here at her house at Lourdes, as thousands will come, since May is her month, and I see the family in all its “catholic” diversity again, especially the sick and the searching. We recall all the times she was there with Jesus, especially Christmas, Cana, the cross, Easter and with the Apostles at Pentecost. We’ll gather in her home at the table of her Son, at the Holy Eucharist.

We get together and sing to her every evening as we carry candles and belt out her Rosary in half-a-dozen languages.

I go to Lourdes because she lives here. It was in 1858 that she appeared here to St. Bernadette Soubirous. She has other homes: Fatima, Czestochowa, Knock, Guadalupe, Pompei, Loretto, even here in New York in our parish shrines, in our backyard grottos, and under her image in our homes.

I go with the Knights and Dames of Malta, dedicated men and women devoted to Christ, His Church, His sick, and His mother, who try to make a pilgrimage here annually around the first days of May, the month devoted to her.

I go to Lourdes because I need it…I need to tell my Blessed Mother that I love her, I need her, I thank her, and that I always feel at home with her.

And you all are here with me!

Ave Maria!