On July 7, 2006, Fr. Benedict Groeschel visited the Our Lady of Lourdes National Shrine and Grotto in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the area which
Our Lady herself has called the "Center of Her Immaculate Heart." The following was given as his homily in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to a chapel
filled with 500+ pilgrims and local residents:
Now, lest we keep you here too long, this has to be a very short sermon, not a homily but a "homilet." I do want to turn our attention to Our
Lady of Lourdes, although this is not related to today's Gospel. I should have told somebody today that I wanted to say that votive Mass. I took Claude by surprise
who had all different hymns arranged, but he managed to recover nicely.
There is much to be learned from the account of Lourdes. Bernadette was among the poorest of the poor. She was born in an abandoned prison.
She died in her early 30's from rickets caused by malnutrition during her infancy and childhood. She was a simple, peasant girl; but she was chosen by God to be one
of those who see the sights and hear the sounds of another world.
Repeatedly in the history of the Church this has happened, and remarkably it generally happens to peasant girls. Be very careful if you know
any poor peasant girls, because I am praying that Our Lady is going to pick out some poor little girl in this country and appear to her. I am including in my
intentions that she picks out a little Protestant girl in the deep South, for that is going to put the "fat in the fire," let me tell you!
Suppose you were a good Baptist minister down in the deep South and you have to set up a shrine to the Blessed Mother! That would send a lot
of people a curve ball. But I'll tell you this, if it did happen to the Baptists, they'd respond. They'd do it. Absolutely! Where as some of the Catholics, they'd be,
you know, a little too delicate for all that.
Unfortunately we have many, many Catholics who fit a saying that my Irish great-grandmother used to say, "Put a beggar on horseback and he'll
ride himself to hell." You have to say "hell" the right way, the way the Irish did. It kind of rang a little bit. Now, what's happening in Ireland right now?
The Church in France was in terrible condition. You know, up until the nineteenth century, in most countries the bishops were appointed by the
king. They were not appointed by the Pope. One of the first countries to have the bishops appointed by the Pope was the United States, because it did not have a
government that would appoint bishops. The last bishops appointed to the Church in France before the French Revolution were scoundrels, appointed by the king. The
worst scoundrel who ever lived was Talleyrand, Bishop of Auton in France. I have been in the Cathedral in Auton longer than he was. I was there half an hour, and he
never got there.
So things were a mess. There were many devout people who formed themselves together in a kind of secret society. It did nothing other than
pray and show respect to the Blessed Sacrament. It is called the Society of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Hierarchy were very unnerved by this. It had no rules, no
offices, no nothing. Members just had to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and it made them (the hierarchy) nervous.
Then the Revolution came. And like Amos says in the First Reading today, "the wrath of God came down upon them." Many good innocent people,
like the cloistered nuns of Orange, and the cloistered Carmelites of ( garbled word here- Compagne's?), whole cloisters taken out and guilotined, killed. And after it
was over, France was filled with schismatic priests who were ordained by the French government of the Revolution, by Talleyrand, 2500 of them. Talleyrand was the most
excommunicated man in Church history, for ordaining 2500 schismatic priests and bishops.
It was a mess, but God would save France, would save it through a simple soul like John Vianney, by a peasant girl named Bernadette, by
another little peasant girl named Catherine Laboure' of the Miraculous Medal. God would show them Who is in charge. And it wasn't the first time that France had been
saved by a peasant girl.
In 1930, they discovered the transcriptions of the trial of Joan of Arc. Joan had just been canonized in 1928. They found in some old library
the scrolls with the testimony of the trial of Joan of Arc, way back in the 1400's. One of the inquisitors had asked her, "Why would God ever choose a little peasant
girl?"; and Joan said, "I suppose He wanted to choose a little peasant girl." Without knowing that, one of the monsignors who questioned Bernadette said, "Why would
God choose a little peasant girl?"; and Bernadette gave exactly the same answer, "I suppose He wanted to choose a little peasant girl."
Little peasant girls can do some strange things. Look at Lourdes. If you have ever been there, it is an incredible scene in the midst of this
land of unbelief and skepticism. Thousands and thousands of people in the summer come for the blessing of the sick, singing Eucharistic hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas
(some Latin example).
How many of you have been to Lourdes? (pause) The rest of you better go! You know what the Irish do, the devout Irish? There are not as many
of them as there used to be. They go to Lourdes on their vacation. That's what they do. Lourdes is pretty much closed in the winter. People go there on vacation. They
have a holy vacation with the Blessed Mother.
But long, long before, God had used another peasant girl, Joan of Arc. And when Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England, wrote the
History of the English-speaking peoples, it was Joan who had defeated them. And he put in his history, there is no "purer" figure in European history, for a thousand
years, than Joan of Arc. He said that once Joan was killed by the English, the tides of history slowed irrevocably against England on the continent of Europe. England
has given its language to whole nations, like ours, to whole continents like India and Australia, but there is no English-speaking village on the continent of Europe,
not one. The English soldier standing at the bottom of the pillar where Joan was burned, watched and turned to the others and said, "Our cause is lost. We have burnt
From the time of Joan, who knew nothing about being a soldier, not even how to ride a horse; from the time Joan led the armies of France to
the battle of Orleans, from that moment on, England was finished. Joan brought to an end the longest war in world history, the Hundred Years War. Had England won,
France would have become a Protestant country, and we would have no Lourdes, no Sacred Heart, no John Vianney, no Frances de Sales. Innumerable things that enrich
present-day Catholicism would not be there, because France would have been lost.
Brothers and sisters, pray that the power of God through the intercession of the Mother of Christ will be powerfully and unquestionably shown
in our country.
Now, many times people report private revelations. I hate to tell you this, but I get a private revelation once a month, in the mail,
overnight mail. Because I wrote a book on private revelations and the Church's teaching on private revelation (which is tough). It is called, A Still Small Voice. And
everybody who gets a private revelation sends it to me. I send them all back, because they don't have the signs of the supernatural. The people are sincere. Sometimes
extraordinary things happen which could be a diabolical influence, but never do I see the signs.
Do you know, for instance, because you may be interested in private revelation, that in 300 years the Catholic Church has never approved a
private revelation that was given to an adult whose identity was known at the time of their death. People like Catherine Laboure', they were unknown at the time of
their death. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Sacred Heart, unknown at the time of their death.
Children are different. The children of Fatima and Bernadette, in their naivete, told what happened. And the children of Fatima and Bernadette
did know whom they were speaking to.
But when people go around, adults seeking publicity on the basis of a private revelation, I flee. I flee! I am not the slightest bit
interested. That is not the sign of Divine Presence. I get many letters from many people, many of them sincere and humble, and many of them looking for publicity,
power and notoriety; and I flee.
When Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary, it was an accident that even the nuns found out who she was. Her spiritual director put it in his
diary, and then he died. He wrote about it without her name. It was not known to anyone else, and the Sacred Heart was not approved for 100 years. St. Faustina
Kowalska, the great private visionary of our time, unknown at the time of her death.
When God wants something known, He will make it known, and no one will stop Him. The prophet says, "He opens and no one shuts. He shuts and no
one opens." The revelations to St. Faustina were disapproved because of the bad translations. After her death, it happened that the new Archbishop of Krakow was
interested and he got a theologian to work on them. A funny thing happened on the way to the consistory, the Archbishop of Krakow got elected Pope. So much for that
We have to trust God! I know many of you are interested in private revelation. So am I. If I could make a suggestion to Our Blessed Mother,
try the United States. The place is a mess! If you think Lourdes in France was a mess, come and look at us. We have a long way to go. But trust in God. He will do His
work in silence and without the assistance of any human being except maybe a little peasant girl.
I pray tonight in thanksgiving to St. Bernadette, that poor child who led such a difficult life, who did nothing to help herself. When she was
dying with cancer of the bone, they wanted to bring her to Lourdes; and she said that "the spring is not for me."
I (Groeschel) came back from the dead. Physicians all tell me when they know my symptoms that it's impossible. You can't be alive, and if
alive, you can't think. You're a vegetable. So I told them that I'm a kosher dill pickle. That's what I am. Two times after I came back from that, I went to the door
of death. They said I would never survive the night. I was filled with poison. I had acute cardiac arrest caused by trauma, which is almost always fatal. I got sent
back, and I'm kind of tired of trying, you know. My advice is that if you get hit, don't get hit by a car, get hit by a truck. Then you'll get out of here.
Someone said, "You should go to Lourdes." No. I had three miracles, and if God wanted me to have another miracle so I could walk better or so
I could use my arm (with which I can't even give out Communion tonight), He would do that. "The spring is not for me." St. Bernadette took nice care of me. To Our
Blessed Mother of Lourdes, when I was lying there and had no idea if I would ever sit up or speak again, I said I've got to do something. So I said the Rosary and the
Divine Mercy Chaplet, over and over again, sometimes 15 a day. This is what Mother Angelica does, unable to speak. And if God asks that of us, we should be at peace.
But I beg you to ask Our Blessed Lady, who is the patron of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception, to pray for this
country which is in such terrible spiritual danger because of the paganism of the media, because of the corruption of the young through the media, and through the
destruction of family life. This country had a great destiny. It's throwing it away. There are signs of reversal of that. I'm sorry to say that they are not as strong
among the Catholics as they are among the Evangelical Protestants. They are doing better than we are. We have to wake up and speak out against the corruption of our
country. And who knows, who knows, she may choose another little peasant girl.
"No one can go off and start up his own church and call it Roman Catholic."
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