Papal Messages from Lourdes

On this feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, it would be beneficial to remind ourselves of the papal messages which have been given to us through this worldly known Shrine.

I want to start with that given to us by Pope St John Paul II in 2004, from the homily he preached on Sunday 15 August 2004, at the Prairie de la Ribère, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Lourdes for the 150th anniversary of the Promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Father reminded us that Mary, from Lourdes has a common worldwide message: live your freedom which Christ has earned for you by his redemption from sin. He said:

“Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou”. The words which Mary spoke to Bernadette on 25 March 1858 have a particular resonance this year, as the Church celebrates the 150th anniversary of the solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus.I have greatly wished to make this pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to celebrate an event which continues to give glory to the Triune God. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gracious love of the Father, the perfect expression of the redemption accomplished by the Son and the beginning of a life completely open to the working of the Spirit… Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; he is the one who “for freedom has set us free” (cf. Gal 5:1). Defend that freedom! (no.1, 4).

This clearly reminds of how Pope Wojtyla used to define freedom: Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

Pope Benedict XVI too gave us two strong messages from the Shrine of Lourdes. The first speaks about Mary’s holiness. Thanks to her purity all of us, sinners, feel comfortable and secure to entrust ourselves to her maternal loving care. In his Angelus address of Sunday 14 September 2008, at the Prairie de la Ribère, during his apostolic journey to France on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes, he said:

This privilege given to Mary, which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary’s purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good. You see it here in Lourdes, as in all Marian shrines; immense crowds come thronging to Mary’s feet to entrust to her their most intimate thoughts, their most heartfelt wishes. That which many, either because of embarrassment or modesty, do not confide to their nearest and dearest, they confide to her who is all pure, to her Immaculate Heart: with simplicity, without frills, in truth. Before Mary, by virtue of her very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires. The Virgin Mary’s maternal love disarms all pride; it renders man capable of seeing himself as he is, and it inspires in him the desire to be converted so as to give glory to God.

 Finally, in address while meeting the French Episcopal Conference at the Hemicycle of Sainte-Bernadette’s Church, Lourdes, on Sunday, 14 September 2008, Pope Benedict highlighted how, through Lourdes, God shows that He shows his power through weak instruments. By his life-giving Spirit he cleanses, fortifies and sanctifies his instruments so that his love strengthen us, humanity, in faith, hope and love, to help others encounter and commit themselves to him. He said:

With heartfelt joy, I entrust you, dear Brothers in the episcopate, to Our Lady of Lourdes and to Saint Bernadette. God’s power has always been manifested in weakness. The Holy Spirit has always cleansed what is soiled, watered what is arid, straightened what is crooked. Christ the Saviour, who has chosen to make us instruments for communicating his love to men, will never cease to make you grow in faith, hope and love, so as to give you the joy of bringing to him a growing number of the men and women of our day.

Is there a greater hope than that of knowing that through Christ, God has liberated and strengthened our freedom? That thanks to the love of Mary we are greatly supported in our pursuit of holiness? And, ultimately, that God uses us, weak instruments to draw to His heart our brothers and sisters while, in so doing, approaches us to heal us from our sin and help us grow in holiness?

What a blessing these three papal messages are for us who live in this challenging world and difficult times.

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.