Go to the Grotto- Our Lady of Lourdes

Sr.Mary Gemma as Katie (far left) before
she entered community
I can still taste the café au lait and the crusty bread. I can walk the cobblestones at dusk and hear the friendly “bonsoir”s that sent me home each night. In my mind’s eye, I can sit on my windowsill at Maison Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul and watch the mist roll off the Pyrenees and hear the morning bells toll from the basilica spire.

The rush of the Gave in springtime, the endless lines of blue wheelchairs, the sea of tiny flames every night in Rosary Square … all impressions of Lourdes that remain with me even now, nearly six years later.

They say that if you’ve been there once, you can always return to the Grotto in your heart.

But how often I forget! How often I let life become burdensome; I grow weary from the daily struggle, from the busyness of it all. How far away Lourdes can seem- an unreachable distance!

But today, the Lord wants me to remember. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened …” I return to this place, a place so blanketed with peace. Yes, there were crowds and shops and plenty of to and fro, but it was all pervaded with a sense of rest, of safety. The Grotto itself is a refuge where the thirsty are literally refreshed.

As I waited in line for the piscines, the baths, women from around the world took turns gently singing Marian hymns. I remember I felt no fear as I walked through the curtains. The women volunteers didn’t speak my language, but we understood one another. They pointed to the little statue of Our Lady at the foot of the bath and somehow communicated that I should say a prayer. I had no power to resist- the tears came and the women embraced me as if I was their own daughter. Immediately my heart was flooded with relief and love.

I plunged in and gasped at the cold of the water. I kissed the little Mary and soon was out of the water and dressed, miraculously dry just as everyone said.

Sometimes all we need is a Mother’s healing love. That day I felt it tangibly, holding me tightly, running like water on my skin. Today I make an act of faith to return to her arms.

“Kindly come,” the Lady said to little Bernadette. Today she says it to me, too. Could it be so easy to go back? One act of trust and all can be made new again. The tears can be wiped away- even sickness can be healed. We have a Mother whose love stretches over every imaginable human fragility and suffering. There she stands in the lonely caves of our hearts, unafraid to be with us in the places no one else will touch. Who would not have the courage to run to her?

the grotto at Lourdes, France where
Mary appeared to St. Bernadette and many
 miraculous healings have taken place
“Go to her, you who are crushed by material misery, defenseless against the hardships of life and the indifference of men. Go to her, you who are assailed by sorrows and moral trials. Go to her, beloved invalids and infirm, you who are sincerely welcomed and honoured at Lourdes as the suffering members of our Lord. Go to her and receive peace of heart, strength for your daily duties, joy for the sacrifice you offer.” 
~Pope Pius XII

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