MALTA LOURDES 2012
Since the earliest times people have had special places to which they traveled where they have withdrawn in search of the sacred.Ireland is rich in holy places, going back to prehistoric times. The Jewish tradition had many holy places where they worshipped the one who had appeared to Moses in the burning bush, revealing Himself as Yahweh, I Am — not the one who was or who will be, but the God of Now. The medieval pilgrims of Christianity traveled to Jerusalem until the expansion of Islam made that impossible and, later, to the great shrine of St. James at Compostella. Their tortuous and dangerous routes into Spain took them across the mighty Pyrenees through high narrow passes. On their way up into the mountains, many of them would have passed a hamlet clustered round a rocky outcrop at the bottom of a valley, where the mighty mountains subsided into the great gentle plains of France, Centuries later, and this inauspicious and forgotten little place was to become a centre of pilgrimage for all the corners of the world. In 1858, a sickly illiterate 14-year old from an impoverished family, Bernadette Soubirous, had eighteen visions of a beautiful lady in a niche in a rock at the old dump of Massabielle, there was a light, and in the light a smile.’
To that place, the lady called people to come in pilgrimage, to go and wash at the spring which appeared on the spot where Bernadette dug with her hands in the ground. And like the gushing waters that sprang up there, people have streamed unceasingly, seeking to come through Mary to Jesus, to wash at the fountain as they pray for renewal and healing. It is a holy place where the rough mountains of suffering lose their pride before the fertile plains of faith, in the presence of the of the God who Is.
On Sunday 6th May many members of the Order of Malta and ambulance corps members from Ireland and all over the world will descend on the holy city of Lourdes with our sick and infirm brothers and sisters for the 2012 International Lourdes Pilgrimage. I know that the members from the American associations are already there and we hope all will go well for all the pilgrims but especially for the Malades who are simply the royalty of Lourdes. There in Lourdes we see generous service given to our brothers and sisters who through their illness give all of us such a great example to all of us.
Lourdes and places like it are important because I feel that they offer the thing most needed by every human being: spiritual assurance, real solid spiritual ground to stand on. And certainly in Lourdes we see the rock of faith and also that faith in action. Lourdes is run for and by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them. The people who are involved there also believe in the dignity of every individual no matter whether they are disabled in any way in mind, body or spirit. They also have a passion for life and for living and for loving, living their daily lives in the spirit and the love of God. Lourdes helps us to believe in God despite the mess we see around us. The advert for Red Bull says that it gives you wings and makes the world go round but really its love that makes the world go round, and that love is present in those who serve the sick or disabled whether working in the hospitals, hotels, shops or the cafes along the streets.
Personally I often think that anyone who comes to Lourdes should think of their pilgrimage in terms of giving themselves away, in that giving yourself away to all those who need you get so much more than I can ever tell you about back from those you care for especially from those who have any type of disability. We are all called to make a pilgrimage to those special places where god dwells that means we make a prayerful journey, with no rewards or results guaranteed. The true pilgrim may seek to have specific needs met, but is open to whatever God chooses to grant, knowing that there will be graces and gifts, but trusting, trusting that the giving is in the hands of God. This is certainly my experience of Lourdes 32 years after my first pilgrimage those friends I made are still very much part of my life.
I said above Lourdes is run for and by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them that too is our vocation as members of the Order of Malta to serve those who need us whether in Lourdes or wherever we are called to be and not be afraid of going that extra mile in service of our Lords the Sick and the poor and defense of our Faith.