Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Lessons of Lourdes Day

Father John J. Lombardi

"Multicultural mysticism"- That is what we experienced at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto as we celebrated our Feast Day last Sunday, February 11.

As you may know, multiculturalism is in, as well as mysticism. Multiculturalism, in one view, is a kinda' inherent desire for experiencing the broad, beautiful tapestry of races and cultures that God created "from every nation and tribe and language of people" (Rev. 14:6). We had a slice of that on Sunday. Meanwhile, mysticism is a direct encounter with God: at the Mass we prayed, sang and received Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Christ Himself speaks of depth filled encounters: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will abide in Me and I in them" (Jn. 6:56).

So, now you ask: Just what is multicultural mysticism? You don't have to go the United Nations, Washington, DC, or the Bravo channel to experience this. No, right here at our Grotto, in humble Frederick County, it was groups and individuals from all over the world: a family of seven from France brought up the gifts of bead and wine. There were groups from Central America (Hispanic Apostolate of Northern Virginia), from Senegal, Croatia and from Italy. Two ladies whose name is Lourdes, one from the Philippines, another from Mexico-celebrated their birthdays that day. A mother and son from Cameroon, a mom from Mexico and a choir-family from, literally "over the hill" of Smithsburg all joined as a worldwide colorful Church in multicultural mysticism. Irish author James Joyce once said: "The Catholic Church-here comes everyone." Yes, indeed, how true.

We had nearly 500 people jammed into our Glass Chapel that wintry Sunday from all over the world, including students from Mt St Mary's University. People who were sick, handicapped, autistic (Benjamin on his birthday, aged 15), married couples and the elderly and crying children. We had a long bearded Franciscan priest concelebrating, people in wheelchairs, a filmmaker.

We began the Mass at 12 Noon with the Angelus in French and in Spanish. The Mass in English, Latin (responses the "Gloria", "Sanctus" and "Agnes Dei") and Greek (the "Kyrie") were expressive of our multinational flavor and heritage. We had 25 young altar boys attending. Meanwhile, one little boy slept behind the organ on a coat during part of the Mass. Bells rang, birds actually sang, communicants imbibed in the Lord and a Theophany (appearance of God) occurred: not only in Jesus coming in the Eucharist, but, as you now know, all the colors, cultures and uncanny expressions of love and devotion to our Lord and Lady. Stone masons, principals of schools, engineers, the young and old, housekeepers, pregnant women and professionals, the sick seeking healing, students and teachers all manifested the Mystical Body of Christ in a Theophany of Divine Love--a kinda Mystical United Nations Love. Read on.

Tom Miller from nearby Fairfield read the first reading in French. As you saw him climb, gingerly, to the pulpit with his walking braces (he was slightly paralyzed by a fall on ice years ago going to Mass)-one person said: "It was a sermon in itself" watching his dedication and love in action.

The homily focused on God's singular grace to the Virgin Mary freeing her from all sin, to carry the sinless Lord Jesus. The Lord calls us all to beauty-despite the pollutants of sin-like the ugliness of pornography, bad words, harmful deeds that imprint within our souls: each person is called to be immaculate within-without sin-to carry Him, the Lord Jesus. Like a title of the Virgin Mary, we ourselves are called to be and become a "Spotless Vessel" of God's love to the world, especially the poor, sick and dying who need hope and love in their times of trouble

Mystical words - that's what young Bernadette Soubirous kept repeating to herself to report her miraculous visions of "The Lady"- the Virgin Mary, of course, who appeared in 1858 beginning on February 11. "I am the Immaculate Conception, I am the Immaculate Conception," the young shepherdess kept saying to herself so she wouldn't forget Mary's words as she went to see the priest. He was incredulous but, of course, the visions proved to be true and to this day many have been healed at Lourdes, France, and, we believe many have received favors or healing graces at our own Grotto on Mary's Mountain.

Two groups sang Communion meditations, in French (from Africa) and Spanish: silence-like-a-womb pervaded the chapel as all listened and prayed with the singing groups in their songs of sweetness to the Virgin Mary. The Procession after Mass was moving as the priests, altar boys and Mt St Mary's Seminarians traveled thru the Church with Christ the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Many along the way reached out to the Lord in the monstrance, or to the priest's vestments seeking peace and healing. The sacred stillness after the procession with the Lord Jesus as Eucharistic King on the altar was supreme, as incense floated before Him, and hearts too.

After the Mass all were invited to receive holy blessed water from the Grotto spring. Outside pilgrims could feast on hot chocolate and cookies, and large, ornate cakes from the local Jubilee store and another from a Pilipino pilgrim. Later hundreds came forward-- especially the sick, for a blessing with a True relic of the Cross, and stood or kneeled before the priests while absorbing the Grace of God and inner healing.

It was inspiring to see the multicultural expressions of Faith. We should be grateful for our Catholic Church and for the sacraments, the Sacramentals, the Grotto and the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes. If you ever doubt the multiculturalism of the Church, come to the Grotto on a Sunday. If you ever wonder about the mysticism of the Church, read about St Bernadette and go to the Holy Eucharist

Theophany and Mystical multiculturalism-right around us: Thanks be to God!

************Briefly Noted*************

The Gospel: S.O.S.-Self on Steroids or Sacredness of Soul-which one are you choosing?...I was still getting my homily ready: right before Mass I asked the lector: "Do you think people are more knee-jerk selfish or selfless?" After a deer-in-the-headlights gaze, and a re-phrasing the question, she immediately said: "selfish." I then asked the two altar servers immediately in front of her what they thought: they both chimed in instantly, "selfish." My instant response: "Well then we have a lotta' work to do (and looking at the Crucifix the altar boy was holding); let's follow the Lord to the Mass." In this Sunday's Gospel the Lord calls us to give to others, turn the other cheek and love our enemies. All these various actions (and, more importantly, attitudes) involve selflessness. This is almost against our human nature, definitely against rugged individualism; Jesus' sayings are "counterintuitive (against our self-esteem, self fulfillment; self promotion). Sometimes, therefore, we have to "hijack our human nature" to practice and promote selflessness (and soulfulness)--while others are naturally more giving, spontaneously. So, to become selfless: mediate upon a crucifix; go to, and get caught up in Mass (the Immolations of Jesus Christ); do good deeds recklessly. Meditate on being and/or becoming an: instrument (Mother Teresa said she was like a "pencil" in God's Hand); a vessel (like the Virgin Mary); or a channel (St Francis). Although we may not like our enemies, when we love them we do not cut them off-as in hatred-from God's Mercy and conversion. This is difficult, so love your enemy thru Jesus, with Him and in Him. We are called to love and bring even Al Qaeda terrorists to the Lord, and hope and pray that they convert to Jesus Christ the Savior.

Ash Wednesday/Lent begins this week: This is a time for conversion-turn away from sin and turn to Him, the Lord. A time for repentance, yes. And also sacred desire for the Lord and serving others. Yes give up something, make a sacrifice, do penance-but also remember your Faith is about a relationship with God and others…Each Catholic from 13 yrs old to 59 is bound to fast this Wed and each Friday--from meat and to eat less food (any two meals should not equal the third meal)-i.e., get hungry for the Lord and think of the hungry who hunger for food which we may take for granted. Make a confession soon! See Grotto schedules for special Lenten services.

"Why Do Good People Do Bad things?" This is the title of a book (by Jungian analyst James Hollis) and, of course, the subject of life and Catholicism. Many seeming good persons do bad actions. i.e., witness: King David (and Bathsheba); the lady- astronaut recently who left her husband and family and tried to harm a friend who was in the way of a love-interest; Einstein committed adultery many times; Fidel Castro, altar boy, became a dictator (let us pray for his conversion); Jean Baptiste Aristide, priest, became president of Haiti (against the Pope's wishes) and committed many atrocities (and now lives in exile after his overthrow: hopefully he will return to his priestly ministry). So why do good people do bad things? In essence: Sin. And: People "crack" and can't handle the pressure of being good 24/7; as in Judas, the devil gets into people; some lead "false lives" -the "book cover" (personality) is not the "book" inside (person); the passions are not synthesized, pacified (emotions overrun the mind); "shadows" of self are not fully integrated. Conclusion: all of the above = transgression, plus then some=Mystery of the human person. Translation for us: we need constant and deeper conversion and for Jesus Christ the perfect God-Man to heal, free and elevate our culpable, sometimes crazy human nature. A pilgrim recently told me about their frenzied life (darkness and sin for decades), and then conversion and healing: "I recognized for the first time what the title of Jesus-as-Savior meant." People get enslaved-even good folks. Meanwhile, an evangelical author I read described a convicted murderer who went on death row, and then killed more people, but after a prison guard gave him a Bible, he converted to Christ and was released, and became the most wonderful evangelist to death row inmates…Lord God: divinize and cauterize our humanity.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi