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Thoughts from the Grotto

The Grotto.

I woke up this morning with Lourdes on my mind. My thoughts went straight to the Grotto where the Blessed Virgin Mary transformed a poor cave into a place of heavenly sweetness. She came down into the life of St. Bernadette which was beset with all kinds of difficulties and trials. Mary is so conformed to her Son that her heart is likewise moved with compassion for us – – his mission is her mission and vice versa:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

– Luke 4: 18 – 19

St. Bernadette was chosen, hand selected by the Immaculate Queen of Heaven, to participate in this saving mission. To proclaim repentance and the transformation of heart through the message of the Divine “folly” of the cross. She was united to Christ through her suffering and thereby entered into participation with his redeeming work. In her own way, St. Bernadette imitated Mary as Mary imitated Jesus and helped to bring salvation and healing to people, including me. St. Bernadette saw herself as a broom to be used by Mary as she saw fit, and to be put away in the utility closet when she was no longer “needed.” By her humble obedience she became an instrument in the hands of Our Lady, who was herself an instrument of God’s grace.

in Lourdes, I received the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit through Mary. The Scripture readings for today fittingly depict her as Mediatrix of All Grace, which is very much the role she plays under her title of Our Lady of Lourdes. She fulfills the Old Testament personification of Jerusalem as faithful Bride of God and loving mother as we read about in Isaiah chapter 66. I experienced what it is to be her child; to be comforted by her and nourished with the graces entrusted to her disposal, symbolized by the healing waters of Lourdes. God himself provides for us by giving us such a mother and giving her everything he wants to give us (Jesus, and through him, the grace of the Holy Spirit) that we might receive all through her Immaculate hands.

And as at the Wedding Feast of Cana (today’s gospel reading), Mother Mary saw my need for a spiritual healing and interceded on my behalf with her Son. Jesus transformed me through Mary and filled me with his love. That is the best way to describe my experience in a few words.

No, I did not receive a bodily healing, but I was healed just the same. The healing I experienced was a foretaste of that full restoration which will take place at the resurrection. I was healed in my soul and was given the realization of how much God loved me and I wanted to reciprocate that love. I found that my suffering allows me to participate in the suffering of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church––and that even becomes a source of joy. Our Lady reassured me, as she did St. Bernadette, that the happiness of full restoration is not promised to us here in this life but it is promised in the next. Suffering understood in the light of the cross and resurrection, makes us long for heaven and the redemption of our bodies. If we suffered with him in this life we will most assuredly rise with him in the next.

It was truly the intercession of Mother Mary that brought me into an encounter with the Most Holy Trinity. First, she brought with her the Holy Spirit and led me straight to Jesus through whom I experienced the love of God the Father. She did everything to make sure that I would not leave Lourdes until I received a new outpouring of the life-giving power of the adoption of the children of God. Our Lady always completes the mission! After all, she is full of grace. And just as she was – – and is – – an instrument of God’s Will, she uses us as her instruments to accomplish that very Will.

I return to the Grotto in my heart. And sometimes I put on the live stream video from the Sanctuary and spend time there, virtually. A life-giving stream wells up within me and heaven floods into the present whenever I turn my mind to Lourdes. I never tire of returning in my thoughts even though I may or may not physically ever go there again.

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