11 Feb – Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick
Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.
It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.
On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fradulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.
Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”
1 Kgs 11:29-32,12:19
‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
This is the command that Jesus gave to the deaf man, after having touched the man’s ears and tongue. We are also told that Jesus used his spittle during the act of healing the deaf man with a speech impediment.
Each time I read this gospel passage, I stand in wonder and envy at that very intimate moment that the deaf man had shared with the Lord. Was it His touch, or His spittle, that upon contact with the man, cured him of his deafness and removed his speech impediment? Could holy water, in our modern context, do the same as well?
I remember once suffering intense headaches and asking my parish priest to bless me. He gave me a small bottle of holy water, probably expecting me to know what to do with it. I, being a very new Catholic then, asked him what I should do with the holy water. He said I could pray with it, rub it on my head, sprinkle it on myself, etc. But he ended the discussion by looking very solemnly at me and saying, “In the end it is all faith. It is not just the holy water or the blessings, but it is your own faith”.
So too it is the deaf man’s faith that ultimately saved him. It was faith that allowed him to let Jesus touch him and rub His spittle on him. It was the faith of the people who had begged Jesus to lay his hand on the deaf man. It was ultimately faith that allowed the deaf man to ‘be opened’ when commanded to do so by Jesus.
We are in many ways like the deaf man with the speech impediment. In our daily lives, we are often deaf to the needs of those around us. Worse yet, we are also often deaf to our Lord’s plans for us, choosing instead to immerse ourselves in the cacophony of social media rather than the silence of prayer. Like the man, we too suffer from our own speech impediments, often finding it hard to respond when our faith is challenged or when we see injustice being done around us.
Are we really deaf? And do we really suffer a speech impediment? Or do we need to listen more closely to our Lord, and truly ‘be opened’ in our faith? At the end of the day, no one can open our hearts and ears for us – not even Jesus – if we refuse to trust and believe in Him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for wisdom in our discernment, so that we can truly be open to Your will and Your plans for us.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for opening our hearts and minds through His Holy Gospel, for freeing us from sin and disbelief.