My maternal grandmother had a profound devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. She had two chalk statues of a kind no longer available of the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Lourdes and the other of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus. The two statues were given to me, and I have carried them with me. When I left my cottage because of Hurricane Ike -- having no conscious thought that my home could be destroyed -- these two statues were among the few things I took with me. So each Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, I thank God for my grandmother and the way she so profoundly and simply shaped my faith. And I pray for the Lord's blessings upon her soul that she may go from strength to strength in His perfect service always beholding the Holy Face of Jesus.
Oh ever immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comfortess of the Afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings. Look upon me with mercy. When you appeared in the grotto of Lourdes, you made it a privileged sanctuary where you dispense your favors, and where many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. My loving Mother, obtain my request. I will try to imitate your virtues so that I may one day share your company and bless you in eternity. Amen.
For those of you, dear Readers, who are new to the story of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes and wonder what sort of meaning this should have for you, I encourage you to read the text of the sermon by the past Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams during his pilgrimage to the Shrine at Lourdes -- the first such visit by an Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury -- and I pray his appreciation of the event of Lourdes will be a helpful first step in making Our Lady's message and miracles your own.
Here then is the conclusion of Dr. Williams' homily at Lourdes:
True mission is ready to be surprised by God 'surprised by joy', in the lovely phrase of C. S. Lewis. Elizabeth knew the whole history of Israel and how it was preparing the way for God to come and visit his people but she was still surprised into newness of life and understanding when the child leapt in her womb. Bernadette's neighbours and teachers and parish clergy knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God and they needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who had leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer. Our prayer here must be that, renewed and surprised in this holy place, we may be given the overshadowing strength of the Spirit to carry Jesus wherever we go, in the hope that joy will leap from heart to heart in all our human encounters; and that we may also be given courage to look and listen for that joy in our own depths when the clarity of the good news seems far away and the sky is cloudy.
But here today, with Elizabeth and Bernadette, we say, in thankful amazement, 'Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' And we recognise that our heart's desire is met and the very depth of our being stirred into new life.
It strikes me that we all need to remember how Our Lord Jesus prayed before His crucifixion that we may be one. So let there be joy all around that through His Blessed Mother many find their way to Christ and His Holy Church. Likewise, let us rejoice that others in denominations once hostile to the Church of Rome find themselves drawn ever more closely to the Roman Catholic Church through the humility of St. Bernadette and the tender mercies of Christ made known through His beautiful Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, at that Shrine where physical miracles and miracles of faith discovered and rediscovered join together as flowers for the Mother of God.