May 4, 2013:
A lesson from Lourdes
Anyone can come to Lourdes, as an individual or with a group. Some totally immerse in the Lourdes water, others just wash their hands or face. It's up to the individual. Many of the physical healings happen during the Blessed Sacrament procession.
Rev. George Mockel/
The Catholic Voice
The story of Saint Bernadette is well known to most. Sometimes however we might miss or gloss over some deeper aspects of her story.
Recall why Bernadette first went to the grotto: It was not to have a religious experience or to have a vision! Bernadette went to the grotto to find some scraps of wood for the fireplace in their one room family shack.
However God had other plans. Bernadette experienced something completely different from what she set out to accomplish. And the result, that experience changed her life forever.
There is a lesson here. Sometimes our hopes, dreams and expectations are different than God's plans for us. Sometimes we push aside or avoid God's plans for us or we fool ourselves into thinking that what I want is always God's plan. Ultimately that will lead to disaster and unhappiness. On the other hand following God's plan does not guarantee happiness in THIS life. It certainly did not for Bernadette. But God's love did carry her through the suffering. The same is true for us.
There is no statue or image of Bernadette in the grotto. Lourdes is not really about Bernadette. Bernadette did not become a saint because of what happened to her in Lourdes. She became a saint because of what happened to her after and how she responded. Bernadette never saw Our Lady again. Why? Perhaps because her role as a witness was over. She was a saint because she accepted the new role and plan God had for her — that of a disciple. In this sense we discover why she is a model for us. We are called to accept God's plan for us. We too are disciples. To the extent we accept that role and live it out; we become what God intends us to be — saints!
(Father Mockel is vicar general of the Diocese of Oakland.)