By: Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.
Sister Gloria Therese and I are privileged to be spending the next eight days in Lourdes with the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta. Every year, they sponsor hundreds of malades (those who are sick) to come to Lourdes to experience some sort of healing and renewal through the hands of Our Lady. It doesn’t seem right for the two of us to keep the graces we receive these days to ourselves and so here we are!
Our pilgrimage began at the LAX where it became evident this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The camaraderie, the genuine care and love the members of the Order expressed to all malades and volunteers, the plane ride over where collectively you pray the rosary over the PA system, the friendships that are started by having conversations with people simply walking by your seat. Amazing. As the song says, “where unity and love prevail, there God is ever found”….quite true.
Upon arrival, most settled in and probably rested before dinner. Sister and I made our way to the grotto. In my mind’s eye, I imagined a small grotto of sorts and a church somehow attached to it in the same area. ‘Tis true but it’s so much more! We walked around to see where our Lady would lead us and wouldn’t you know it, she led us directly to the baths. We waited in line for about 1 1/2 hours as we sang Marian songs and prayed the rosary in different languages. The Church is definitely alive!
The most moving thing in regards to the baths for me was not the bath itself. You are in a small room with others preparing to enter into the waters. In our room, there was a lady who obviously had physical suffering all her life and was having a moment of distress. The ladies who were “working” at the time surrounded her with such love and prayer, it was a beautiful experience. The healing comes not only from our Lady through the water…you experience it powerfully through the great love of the people who are walking this journey with you. They really care, they are really praying for you and they are acting on behalf of our Lady.
We know that our Lady has called us here. Each one of us. It is said to all pilgrims and it is true. As Carmelites, an Order that belongs to our Lady, it has an extra layer of meaning we are trying to discover. We come here not just for ourselves, but for our community and all those we are blessed to serve. But as a member of the Carmelite Order, it holds extra special meaning. The last vision of our Lady to Bernadette happened on July 16, Solemnity of our Lady of Carmel. The miracle of the sun at Fatima, our Lady appeared as our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The charism of Carmel is closely tied to the message the heavens are trying to communicate to the world today. And as Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, we have been entrusted with a great responsibility to enflesh the zealous spirit of Elijah, the receptive spirit of our Lady, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice Carmel is known for as well as the unique spirit of our Foundress, Mother Luisita, who blends this spirit with active service in the Church. What a gift.
One last thought. We also learned today that Lourdes is one of the most visited shrines in all of Christendom. It was interesting to know this…as it’s even more visited than Rome and Jerusalem. As Sister and I were talking about it, we came to a conclusion that every single person in this world is seeking some kind of healing. It could mean physical healing but there are also so many other layers of healing needed for all of us. Everyone also seeks peace regardless of faith tradition, background, life journey. Peace and healing are so closely intertwined, healing brings about peace and peace brings about healing. This place is a place of healing, of peace. You walk around and they are literally hundreds of people who are physically sick among the thousands present. There is a spirit of joy and peace that permeates the air you breathe, the water you drink. This is where our Lady calls her children to remind us that we are loved and that we matter. Our faith is alive and well. All we need to see is how we are with the sick and suffering. Beautiful. This is our Church and one to be quite proud of. Until tomorrow. God bless you!