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placeholder December 15, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Candles burn in front of the statue of Mary at Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

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Lourdes: Where heaven has kissed the earth

Rev. Jim Sullivan

My sister Anne, on pilgrimage with me to Lourdes in 1999, aptly described the place when she said, "This is a city of joy."

The joy of Lourdes is everywhere evident: in the testimony of crutches hung up at the Grotto and left forever behind by those who have experienced a miraculous healing; in the "Ave Marias" of the thousands of marchers in the evening candlelight rosary processions at the shrine; in the sparkling, sun-stroked waters of the Gave de Pau, the river on which the city is situated; in the happy patrons of the city's many cafes and restaurants, whose French cuisine is delicious.

Lourdes is also, of course, a city of faith. Huge, vibrant, evangelizing faith. There are several churches at the shrine and Mass is offered all day long. There are tour groups of pilgrims from around the world — one hears the languages of six continents at Lourdes. There are the sisters in their distinctive garb, and the youth volunteers, assisting those in wheelchairs and on stretchers, as they make their way to the (icy cold!) baths in the healing and miraculous spring. There are the places of the childhood and teenage years of St. Bernadette, to whom Our Lady appeared 16 times in 1858, telling her to spread the message of God's healing mercy and love to all the world.

Lourdes is like no other place on earth. An elderly Irish priest, making his annual trip to the shrine, with a large number of Irish pilgrims, said to me, that first time that I was there, "Jim, here at Lourdes, Heaven has truly kissed earth. This is as close as we will get, in this life, to the joy of heaven."

I heartily concur!

(Father Jim Sullivan is parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood.)

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