Who am I?

Personal Testimony: Hope and Healing in Lourdes


(Dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes – written February 11, 2003)

I was blessed to be able to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with my family in 2000. What I experienced in Lourdes changed my life forever.

I am 26 years old (now 30) and in a wheelchair with a physical disability known as muscular dystrophy. Although raised Catholic I became lukewarm and indifferent as a teenager. I had much difficulty dealing with my suffering. I let it affect me emotionally (sadness) socially (loneliness and I am already shy by nature!) and worst of all spiritually (sinning to “alleviate my pain”). My heart was not with the Lord but with the things of the world. I was into Hip-Hop and had CDs of un-Godly music or seemingly positive with lyrics that offended GOD. At that time i didn’t like myself very much.

Even though i had forgotten Him the Lord had not forgotten me. Slowly He drew me to Himself through: a young Muslim who raised questions inciting me to read the Bible and Catechism, EWTN, a Franciscan friar who visited me, apologetics websites and special Masses (most memorably the veneration of the relics of St. Therese). The humility of God in becoming man, dying on a Cross, and in the Eucharist for me compelled me to open the door of my heart.

In the Great Jubilee year 2000 i was flooded with graces of conversion.

My mother was inspired with the idea of making a family pilgrimage to Lourdes. My mother Mary wanted us go Her Shrine during the Jubilee year. She prepared me by rooting up obstacles so that the message of Lourdes would fall on fertile soil. I threw away many CDs, deleted every mp3 and all “borrowed” software. I remember praying the Rosary for many weeks until Lourdes. I anticipated a cure in Lourdes.

Lourdes was so beautiful! The Shrine and the mountains overlooking it was an amazing sight. You could tell that Mother of God had been here.

We prayed in the Grotto first. The cave had been an unseemly place, a feeding ground for animals at the time of the Apparitions. I was struck by the humility of Heaven—first the Son of God chose a cave and now His Mother does the same!

Next we went to the taps to drink of the miraculous spring that I had longed to come in contact with. A pilgrim just finished filling up bottles of Lourdes water. He limped toward us smiling with a great look of joy on his face and handed me one of his Our Lady of Lourdes shaped bottles. I felt that it was the Lord Himself welcoming me to Lourdes. I was moved to tears. Here was someone who like me suffers with a physical disability yet he was not concerned with himself. He seemed to say to me “In spite of this i can still be joyful… I can love. Go and do the same”. I began to feel at once the peace of being in Lourdes. The tears of joy that filled my eyes where soon filled over with pure Lourdes water. We washed our faces and my parents poured water on my feet, and hands.

The devotion and love for the Blessed Virgin was so alive in Lourdes. For the first time in my life i saw the Universal Church. The beautiful candlelight Rosary Procession with pilgrims from all over the world set my heart on fire. I never saw so much devotion in one place before! I felt so united to the Mystical Body of Christ.

In Lourdes the Blessed Mother became more real and approachable for me. As i grew deeper in my love for Her, She took my heart and gave it to Her Son. Lourdes was really my first time in Eucharistic Adoration. I would just look straight at Him and i knew that He was reading my heart. I prayed with my entire being as i realized i was looking at my God at my Creator who could heal me in an instant.

The blessing of the sick with the Blessed Sacrament was a powerful experience. The priest lifted up Jesus in the monstrance and blessed all the sick and suffering pilgrims. What reverence and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Benediction in the huge underground Basilica.

Daily Mass was the most important part of our pilgrimage. One day at Holy Mass in Lourdes, the priest spoke about suffering in his homily. Sick and suffering persons are dear to God and have special purpose. Some by their disability are prevented from committing certain mortal sins. Those with severe mental disabilities can’t even commit a sin! In His infinite mercy and love God is preserving these souls for Himself! Those who suffer much are the ones closest to God if they do not become bitter and rebel against it.

GOD permits suffering in order to bring a greater good out of it–the Crucifix is proof! I was moved when i learned that my suffering has great value when it is united with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. I can offer my suffering to save souls! It was for my good that He allowed me to suffer. He wants me to be a saint. I was in a wheelchair precisely because God loved me!

Ever since arriving i had been looking forward to the Lourdes bath. I went to confession immediately to prepare for the healing waters of Lourdes. I held my rosary tightly in my hand as i was immersed in the water. It was so cold! When i was lifted out my body was instantly dry. A deep peace flooded my soul. I was uplifted. I felt that I died to myself and became alive in Christ.

There was so much i learned from St. Bernadette. I learned the logic of “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” St. Bernadette faced many humiliations and suffered much throughout her life. This attracted me to her. I felt a closeness to her. She ate the bitter grass in the Grotto and drank muddy water and washed her face in it. The Virgin asked this of her as penance for poor sinners. I saw power of penance. St. Bernadette taught me much about obedience, humility, and suffering. God chooses the weak, the humble, and those considered as nobody to manifest his power.

The humble will be exalted. I realized that this was true in the fullest sense of Mary– the Queen of Heaven.

During a procession i lost shyness to sing and started to sing Ave Maria really loud with everyone else. (And i’ve been singing along at Mass ever since! This was completely wrought by GOD.)

The presence of GOD was everywhere in Mary’s Shrine! I was filled with great joy and peace and i felt so loved! I prayed for a physical healing and i received something greater–a spiritual healing. The Lord gave me the grace to accept and even embrace my suffering and to see it as a blessing, as proof of His great love for me. These sufferings are temporary and short in comparison to eternity. He shares His suffering with me that He might share His glory with me. My prayer became that of Jesus in the garden: “Father, if it is possible take this cup from me but not my will but yours be done.”

For me Lourdes was a foretaste of Heaven. Our pilgrimage to Lourdes reminded me of the pilgrimage of life. There are hardships but when you have arrived at your final destination you will see that the sufferings were all worth it. I saw Heaven as my goal and final destination. The Blessed Virgin guides us on our journey. I grew in my understanding of what is lasting and what is passing. I grew in a new desire to do God’s will especially in things that might cost me something because there would be more merit.

The words that Our Lady spoke to St. Bernadette made sense to me: “I do not promise you happiness in this world but in the next.”

Ever since the pilgrimage i have been growing in love of God and neighbor. The Lord keeps bring me out of myself through suffering for the love of Him, joyfully and in spite of myself!

13 thoughts on “Personal Testimony: Hope and Healing in Lourdes”

  1. […]thank you so very much for sharing your powerful conversion story. your words brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. also, St. Bernadette happens to be my patron Saint. my own journey (warning: it’s a doosey) begins on the right side of my webpage, under “about me”…

    may God continue to bless you *abundantly*! He is going to do mighty things through your openness to His grace.

    you GO ! ! !

    in our Savior’s love,
    your sister in Jesus

  2. Dear Harold,
    Thank you for sharing these inspiring and heatfelt words. You are blessed because of what Christ Jesus has done for all of us in sacrificing His life on the cross of Calvary. You are also blessed to have a wonderful Mom, Daddy, and Sister, who love and care for you joyfully. Continue to share your faith and pray for family and everyone else.
    We love you and hope to see you in the near future. We are glad you received the Bible and pictures we sent you.

  3. “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” – Lk 1:49

  4. Your story is very inspiring to many people including myself. Your spiritual guidance and the fact that you find joy even in suffering helps me to perceive my own trials as minor.

  5. What a beautiful testimony of God’s grace! Thank you for sharing it here, Harold! I know that your story will greatly bless the St. B’s men’s group! God bless, brother!

  6. Your conversion story, acceptance of difficulties have touched my heart, a great inspiration for spiritual journey. Thanks for sharing this event and enrich people spiritually through your faith experiences. May God bless you and your family.

  7. “In spite of this i can still be joyful… I can love. Go and do the same”.
    “Those who suffer much are the ones closest to God if they do not become bitter and rebel against it.”
    “There are hardships but when you have arrived at your final destination you will see that the sufferings were all worth it.”

    Hard truths, Harold. May your example and those of Our Lady be an inspiration to us all, and may God give us the strength and courage to carry the Cross assigned to us.

    “a young Muslim…raised questions inciting me to read the Bible and Catechism” Praise God for that man! May his heart be open to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  8. I finally read it., Harold. It has been on my mind to do this for the last couple of days. I am so moved by your experiences/ the journey that you have shared. The journey of your life with and without faith…….and the realities you could see and couldn’t see until they were illuminated by faith…….and those spiritual realities are the truly beautiful ones with the fullness and richness of life…..A life listening to the cds and music that “seemed” good…. but offered no lasting good…no joy, no delight in life, no strength to overcome any difficulty whether big or small…..and now, the spiritual life that you have to see the same life through the lens of the inner person…the love, patience, understanding and wonders of the human soul that God loves so much and that oh, I am so happy for you! And full of hope for everyday!

    I have now been on two pilgrimages…..Lourdes and San Giovanni Rotondo and I can say….they were life changing…. I would not have believed it if I had not done it…
    Something is vastly different in my heart….so, on some level I can very much relate to the wonders you experienced in Lourdes. …and the wonders of Our Lady …who called you there….comforted you there…mothered you there…. Your eyes and heart know in a much fuller way her great love for you and the support of love and strength and her own prayers to her son for you ….to strengthen you to carry your cross and do all the good deeds that the Lord has planned and asked of you for all eternity…..

    Keep writing! Keep praying! Tell the wonders of our God!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and insightful comments! You captured very well my journey of faith. I can see reality more clearly now, and I have so much hope. The very thought that Our lady is constantly present to me, accompanying me on this journey of growing to love Christ more and more, gives me strength to carry the cross and empowers me to fulfill the purpose for which I was created.

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