Entering with St. Bernadette into Mary’s School, September 18, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
Crypt Chapel of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Votive Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes
Pilgrimage to the Saints and Shrines of France
September 18, 2013
Is 66:10-14, Judith 13:18-19, Jn 2:1-11

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:

The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette here in Lourdes, she was very clear about what she wanted to happen. For us to make a good pilgrimage to this sacred spot, it’s important for us to ponder what is intended here. In the opening prayer of this Mass, we turned to God the Father and noted that Mary came here to remind St. Bernadette and through her all of us of what Jesus had taught us, which is the point of every private revelation. The Blessed Mother wanted to remind us of four things:
  • The first is about the importance of prayer. She asked Bernadette to go to the pastor Fr. Peyramale and through him ask that a Church be built here, a house of prayer. This is what Mary had done 327 years earlier outside Mexico City when she appeared to St. Juan Diego and likewise asked for a house of prayer. Mary as a loving mother wants to help us to pray. She told Bernadette she wanted people to come here in processions of prayer — like we will be doing tonight in the torchlight Rosary procession — leaving our old ways behind and walking together with Mary in prayer in the footsteps of her Son. Each of the 18 times Mary appeared to St. Bernadette between February 11 and July 16 of 1858, she led her in prayer. She likewise wants to lead us.
  • The second lesson of her Son of which she reminded us was about a particular type of prayer that’s always urgent. She asked Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners and to do penance for their conversion. It’s a very consoling though that starting 155 years ago with the 14 year old daughter of François and Louise Soubirous, and continuing with millions who have come here since, people have been led by Mary to pray for our conversion, they’ve done penance here for us, just as we are called to do for others. At La Salette yesterday, we pondered the tears of Mary praying for the conversion of her children. Here, 12 years after Mary appeared in the French Alps, she was still asking young people to lead the charge in prayers for penance and conversion. She knew we and others need it urgently. And so we join that unending spiritual and penitential procession of prayer for the expiation of our sins and the sins of all the world.
  • The name that Mary revealed to St. Bernadette highlights the hope for conversion that inundates this holy place as a result of prayers for penance. In response to St. Bernadette’s repeated requests to reveal her name, Mary eventually said not “I am Mary of Nazareth,” or “I am the Mother of God.” Instead she said in the local patois, “Que era soy a Immaculada Concepciou,” “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It points to how she, from the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb, had a total enmity toward sin, how she was so full of grace, which means full of God, that there was no room for sin. Even though we are not preveniently saved from sin, she wants to lead us on the path of the Sacraments so that we can likewise be full of grace and free of sin. The healing waters that flow here in Lourdes are a sign of the healing waters of baptism that wipes away our sins. That water continues to pour out with blood from Jesus’ open side in the confessional, where that water and blood remit all post-baptismal sins, something that occurs here in Lourdes each day in more than 50 languages. When Blessed John Paul II came here in 1983 for the 125th anniversary of the apparitions, he said that the essential message of Lourdes is that the Virgin without sin brings help, hope and healing to sinners. That’s the second reason why she wanted people to come here in prayerful procession, that they might experience the conversion to which Christ continually calls us.
  • Third, this is a place of great charity. It’s first a sacred spot in which we encounter God’s great love who sent the Blessed Virgin to remind us of all her Son taught so that we might live a life of transforming, loving union with him. But it’s also a place where that love overflows toward others. It’s so moving to see hundreds of Good Samaritans who come here to help with the “malades,” the sick, rolling them in wheelchairs to the baths, in the processions, at Mass, to their residences, and so much more. It’s moving to see so many other volunteers who care for pilgrims, who try to embrace them with the love with which God wants. Likewise as we come here, the Blessed Virgin wants to help us be transformed by God’s love in such a way that we seek to share that love with others, so that we might help all those who are physically ill, spiritually sick, emotionally wounded or otherwise in need. We do that first by our prayers, but the real fruit of prayer is this type of charity.
  • The last point I’d like to make is about one of the real fruits of this spot. Pope Benedict talked about it 5 years ago when he was here to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s appearances to St. Bernadette. He noted that when Bernadette first asked Our Lady to tell her her name, our Lady didn’t respond in words. But she responded with a serene smile. That was her first response and a fitting introduction to her whole mission. “In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures, looking down on us,” Pope Benedict said, “is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity that never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God’s tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.” Here Mary continues to smile. She’s so happy we’re here. She wants to make us so much happier still by teaching us in her school how to pray with hope for the conversion of all sinners, beginning with ourselves, leading us to true charity toward God and others. She wants ultimately to help us smile just as serenely, in this life and in the next. Let us see her smiling on us now as we prepare to receive her Son and ask her to help us bring that smile out to a world that so much needs to see the Gospel enfleshed on our faces!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 66: 10-14)
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, That you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bodies flourish like the grass; The LORD’s power shall be known to his servants, but to his enemies, his wrath. The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm — You are the Highest Honor of Our Race (Judith 13:18,19)

Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth,

Your deed of hope will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God.

Alleluia — “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. Blessed is holy Mary who fully obeyed God’s will.”

A reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. John (Jn 2:1-11)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. The Gospel of the Lord.