Arriving in France a month ago I approached Saint Joseph’s gate to enter the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes I was momentarily stopped by what looked like a scene from the movie Ben Hur or Gladiator with chariot like carts each carrying a sick or crippled adult, child being pulled or pushed by a healthy adult or teen.
On that day and each of the days from April to October this scene would play out. Thousands would enter the holy ground where the mother of Jesus appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette on February 11, 1858. There would be a total of 18 apparitions until July 16, 1858. During that period, Heaven touched the Earth.
Each year four to six million people come seeking to touch the ground that Mary’s presence made holy. They would come to ask, to knock, heeding the words of Jesus today in the Gospel, but also of his Mother who asked Bernadette to come.
As I gazed out over the young who were sick, aged, infirmed, and the thousands of pilgrims who appeared to be healthy but also came to ask and seek, I asked myself would they be disappointed if in asking they had not received a healing or find what they came to seek?
Of the millions who have come over the years only 70 miracles have been confirmed, but thousands more acknowledge unofficially. Some who came to seek did indeed find. But this could also be said of the millions who asked and may not have received the specific thing they came to ask for. What everyone has received however is the assurance that God is with us, that heaven touched earth on February 11, 1858 and has been touching the earth at Lourdes ever since. Faith was in evidence everywhere. It was tangible. It was real.
In coming to ask and seek, people left assured that God heard their cry and that Mary, his Mother, did as well. In coming to ask, many who come to Lourdes have rediscovered the faith gifted to them at their baptism, the finger of God that lifts the burdens that many who come, ask that they be lifted.
Many individuals and families may never have the opportunity to go to Lourdes, to visit the grotto that Saint Bernadette said “was her heaven.” Our homes can still possess a grotto or sacred space where a Mary statue is present enabling her to look down upon us and for us to look up towards her. Mary will illuminate our lives today in much the same way that she illuminated the life of Bernadette Soubirous.
About Father Leo Polselli, C.S.C.
Father Leo Polselli, C.S.C. is Chaplain at the Father Peyton Center in Easton, MA. Before coming to Holy Cross Family Ministries he served as a teacher and a parish priest. He also served for six years as a General Assistant of the Congregation in Rome, Italy. Originally from Fall River, MA, Father Leo grew up with eight siblings. Gifted with several languages, he is able to serve the Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Portuguese, Spanish and Haitian communities. When he's not greeting everyone who comes to the Father Peyton Center, you can find him regularly reading newspapers!