Father John J. Lombardi
This past week we had a special visitor and pilgrim: The Bishop of Lourdes! Of course he oversees the Shrine in southern France, of which we,
our Grotto, is named. In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette. We are now celebrating the 150th Anniversary of those Sacred Apparitions.
Anyway we gotta' call on Tuesday (Nov. 29th), and Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes said he was coming Thursday to celebrate Mass with us and
visit our Holy Shrine! Yikes! Anyway, it began a cloudy, rainy day, and I was kinda' cloudy too. Then: suddenly at 11:15 in the morning, just as Bishop Perrier was to
arrive, it began clearing: bright beautiful skies and glorious sun shining. What a gift!
I called the Bishop to see where he was and found out he got lost on the way. So Bill Tronolone, Director of Grotto Relations, and I hopped in
his car and we retrieved the Bishop. We brought him up to the Grotto and then he offered flowers to the Virgin at our Cave, with the Lourdes statue beaming in the
sun/Son. It was a poignant moment at the Grotto, praying with this man and his assistant-translator, Pere Regis-Marie. We then walked to the Corpus Christi Chapel and
prayed there. I told them the Story of Fr. Jean Dubois (French: get it?!-"The French Connection"), and how this brave, heroic man of God escaped tyranny in France
during the revolution (1790's); came to the States and learned English; began saying Mass up and down near our shrine, founded our Mt. St. Mary's College/University;
and built a church on Mary's Mountain-not to mention becoming spiritual director to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and healing the sick and dying and beginning Mt. St. Mary's
Seminary. Tired yet? After all this I said to the Frenchmen: this guy, Dubois, is a real hero to us! After hearing my spiel on Dubois, the translator, Pere Regis-
Marie, quipped in his wonderful French accent: "He's a super hero!" Then I knew we were gonna' have a good visit.
We headed off down the mountain and visited the Mysteries of Light and met Msgr. Rohlfs, head of the Seminary here, and then to Mass where 25
altar boys-lined up in cassock and surplice, from tall to small, all awaited the Bishop and smiled and clapped when they saw him. The Bishop made a special outreach to
them all. We then headed in to Mass as the sunlight radiated on Mary's Mountain.
I tried to say part of the Eucharistic prayer in French (albeit nervously), and when I pronounced the words of Consecration, I was lingering on
some words (seeing the French, I must admit I didn't always know exactly the actions I should be doing), and when I kept plowing ahead, the kindly Bishop nudged me and
assisted me to halt, calm, hold up the Chalice of Precious Blood and then move on. I was thankful and smiling for his kindly help! Also: he was saying the words gently
and half-silently behind me and this helped me tremendously-I seemed to be harmonizing into his words, and French (my attempt at it-that is) and became more assured and
synthesized in the Mystical Body.
After Communion I invited the Bishop to speak to us. He spoke of affection for our Grotto; commented on my French (!); and then announced a
Jubilee Year to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes. (I fell off my chair-I was sleeping on the job and didn't' know about a Jubilee year:
yikes!) After all that, he then reached in his pocket and pulled out something: I couldn't see too well as I was right behind him. He held it up and Pere Regis-Marie
said it was a stone from the Grotto of Lourdes in France, excavated right near the miraculous spring where the Blessed Virgin told St. Bernadette to dig and receive
water-refreshment. I couldn't believe it-he said he was giving the stone to us to "spiritually connect" us to the Lourdes, France, Grotto and to place it in our Grotto
for pilgrims to venerate. Wow!
We are thankful for the Bishop's Gift to us and intend in the Jubilee Year ahead to display it for veneration and prayer that will connect us to
the Shrine in France...Now, let's look at some important aspects of this Jubilee year and the Grotto in France!
"Six million people come to Lourdes every year. Why do they come? They come because Lourdes is a different place:
- A place where Christians can freely express their faith
- A place where the sick and people with disability have priority
- A place of prayer, of service and fraternity between people
- A place that children and young people say is "super"
- A place where a person can be open to God
It is a place that people keep returning to. The story of Lourdes began in 1858 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous.
Since then the number of pilgrims has increased each year. It is a place of spirituality that helps people to live in our world today.
The story of Lourdes is written each day by the pilgrims who come here, it is a living story. After 150 years people still come to give thanks.
This year we will give thanks for graces received, we will discern God's will as we embark into the 3rd millennium, and we will make more
available the service of the sanctuary. It is for these reasons that the Jubilee Year will last for a full 12 months. It will begin on the 8th December 2007, the Feast
of the Immaculate Conception and will continue until 8th December 2008. Come in winter when you might have the place to yourself or almost. "Come drink at the spring
and wash yourself there."
The radiance of Lourdes is universal, and the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes wishes to associate the Jubilee Year with various places: places that
are under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes or places that have a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in their locality, or places that are named after Bernadette
Soubirous, (the young girl Mary appeared to), and also places that are under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. The message of Lourdes is known throughout the
world and the Jubilee Year will commence on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 2007 until the 8 December 2008. It will be a wonderful occasion for those
places associated with Lourdes to discover or rediscover the roots of their names.
However if this is not possible, you can still be associated with the Jubilee Year by being kept informed of the various events that are taking
place during the Jubilee Year. You can do this by e-mail, ordinary mail, and by going online. In this day and age, you can be part of our celebrations, even if you are
doing this in your own country.
Bishop Perrier invites all those places mentioned above to be associated with the Jubilee Year in prayer. He believes that we are all members of
the Lourdes family and he invites you to participate in whatever way you can." (Source- www.lourdes-france.org www.lourdes2008.com; www.usccb.org: )
FAQ's-Frequently Asked Questions…Q.: What is a Jubilee Year? A.: It is a sacred time set apart by Church officials to mark, in a specific way, a
spiritual year for unique purposes. Q.: What is unique about this Jubilee Year? A.: To remind ourselves of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Apparitions at Lourdes; God's
Mercy and the call to penance, prayer and Eucharist; and also to try to make a pilgrimage to a Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, esp. here at Mt. St. Mary's and partake of
a Plenary Indulgence. Q.: What is unique about our Grotto-here at Mary's Mountain-Mt. St. Mary's? A.: Glad you asked. 1) It is the oldest in the USA; 2) We just
received from the Man Himself-Bishop Perrier of Lourdes-a stone from the original Grotto in France. He was kinda' "spiritually adopting us" and connecting us to the
original Shrine, and by being a Bishop, a successor of St. Peter, and we should joyfully and seriously take his counsel to help pilgrims venerate this sacred stone and
thru it, Mary Immaculate! Q.: What is a Plenary Indulgence? A.: It is Christ working thru His Church (Jesus says: "he who hears you hears Me") to give grace and freedom
from punishment of sins (essentially bypassing Purgatory!), by way of loving conversion and a Christ-like life. We fulfill the obligations of an Indulgence by: making a
confession; seriously changing sins/sinful life; attend Mass and make a pilgrimage, and while there, say the Creed, Our Father, and invocation of the Blessed Virgin
Mary and pray for the Pope's intentions. This is a wonderful way to prepare for Christmas, for the New Year and also entrust ourselves to Jesus thru Mary. Stay tuned to
upcoming events and explanatory notes about the Jubilee Year!
Advent-Gospel: "Repent and believe in the Kingdom of God" (St. Mt. 3:1ff)…We either embrace Magnetic detraction (sin) or Mystical Attraction
(love of God, others)-which one are you choosing? St Paul describes this "magnetic detraction" in Romans 3-we are all sinners, and Romans 7: The good I wanna' do I
don't do…Like the SS Titanic inevitably going toward the iceberg, or a moth to flame-we're likely gonna' sin while in the world. What are Christ's and the Baptist's
remedy?-"Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand". We need then to avoid sin and do good. Regarding Advent and Christmas we are called to give answer and
anticipation of the Celebration (Christmas) by preparation, and some ways of this preparation include the Three P's: Peace and harmony (First Rdg. Is. 11); and Patience
(Second Rdg. Rm. 15=endurance) and Penance in the Gospel. Now, what exactly should we repent of, and to? Take the Seven Capital Sins as an Examination of Conscience.
See the sin (italics) and it's opposite (following it) and Repent!: Pride-humility (Mother Teresa cleaned bathrooms for love of God); Anger-love (St Therese: I've
discovered my vocation is love!); Gluttony-Fasting (St John Baptist fasted on grasshoppers/locust-hmmm: organic!); Avarice-Spiritual Poverty (St. Francis gave away and
got up); Lust-Chastity-inner beauty (I am the Immaculate Conception-what a Creature-you- should really be!); Envy--Gratefulness ("is the heart of prayer" a book title
by Br. David Steindel Raast. Sloth-Zeal-excited for the Lord…Run away from sin and turn toward Him. Pull out the bad hay and put in good for the Lord to rest His
head-in your soul. Alexander Pope said: "What good is it if we make crPches all over the world for the
Lord to rest his head and yet do not make one in our hearts?" …
Catholic Critics have critiqued the movie, "The Golden Compass": you should be aware that the author of the book-series is an atheist and has
termed the "bad guy" in the movie, "the magisterium" which is a name for our Teaching Catholic Church. Be countercultural and help others to prepare the way of the Lord
and not mock him.
Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi