LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

Visiting the Blessed Mother in Lourdes

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Sunday is Mother’s Day. Those of us fortunate to have our moms still with us will celebrate with them. In fact, I plan to spend Friday and Saturday with mine in St. Louis before flying back here in time for Sunday morning Mass at St. Patrick’s.

Those whose moms have gone back to God will rehearse fond and grateful memories while praising God for the gift they were.

One thing we humans have in common is that we all have a mother. The only begotten Son of God, the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, was true God, but, to be true man, even He needed a mother.

God the Father chose a young virgin in Nazareth for that sacred vocation, Mary by name.

Once, while a parish priest, teaching religion to fourth graders, I asked, “Why do we love Mary so much?” One of the 9-year-olds replied, “Because God loved her so much He asked her to be the Mother of His Son.”

Not a bad answer at all!

I pen these words in Lourdes, the renowned shrine in southwestern France where Mary appeared to a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, in a cave outside of the village of Lourdes in 1858.

The Mother of Jesus reminded Bernadette that she was her mother, too, and the mother of all who looked to her Son, Jesus, as their Lord and Savior.

At Lourdes every day is Mother’s Day, as her sons and daughters come to the grotto to tell her they love her, they need her, they thank her. They tell her their troubles, as that young newly married couple did at Cana, and she takes these needs to her son, Jesus.

Here you see the bent, the paralyzed, the severely disabled. Here you hear the shrieks of those in turmoil. Here you watch those who cannot look back because they are blind. Here you look at the bald little kids emaciated from chemo. Here you see those who look sturdy and robust, but whose eyes are moist because they carry within a burden and a deep worry. Here you notice folks who are on an errand as they come to the grotto because a person they love is too ill to come.

When I was a boy, the pastor of our parish had been a chaplain in Europe during World War II. Father Callahan would tell us stories we young boys were eager to hear. He figured he had been with about 300 soldiers, most 18 or 19, as they were dying with wounds, there to anoint and absolve them.

Chaplain Callahan would choke up when he recalled, “Their last words were almost always the same: ‘Mom.’”

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was to His Mother. He gave her to His best friend, St. John, the beloved disciple, to take into his care; He entrusted St. John to her.

She is our blessed Mother. Our God, our Savior, our Lord, has a mother. She is ours, too.

So we are intimately united with all of those who claim her as a mother. This is a real family, a supernatural one, we call the Church.

Today, so many of her children in the family of the Church are hurting bad. I walked with them at Lourdes, wounded in soul, mind, and body.

So many others are persecuted for their faith in Jesus; others are starving, or without home or country, refugees and immigrants.

Others are fed up with our family, the Church, because of anger over scandal and tensions within the Church.

We need our spiritual Mother more than ever.

A pediatrician in Lourdes told us that the first time a little baby realizes he or she exists, the first time they sense an identity, of their own, is when the baby stares into the eyes of his or her mom and sees his or her reflection.

When we gaze at our Blessed Mother, we sense our identity as a child of God, created in His image and likeness, redeemed by the fruit of her womb, Jesus, a member of His family in His Church.

I was sure glad to visit her at Lourdes during this month of May dedicated to her, this week of Mother’s Day, to tell her I love her, I thank her, I need her. I hope you don’t mind that I told her that you did, too.

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