This weekend, shortly before today's centenary of the beginning of World War I, an English bishop has said that the Marian shrine of Lourdes remains “undimmed” and still invites everyone to see the “light of the Gospel,” Jesus Christ.
“A hundred years ago this week, the world descended into what is now called the First World War, the second war would quickly follow and a Cold War would bring humanity to the brink of nuclear extinction,” Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury preached July 26.
“It is hard to believe how in those summer weeks of 1914 the beginnings of this whole catastrophe would be welcomed by ecstatic crowds and enjoy wide, public support.”
He said that Lourdes has “continued its clear witness to the value of every person, especially those most in danger of being discarded” despite global war and ideologies which aim to “strip human life of its value and dignity.”
Bishop Davies preached during a Mass said at the grotto of Lourdes, which marks the spot where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernardette Soubirous 18 times in 1858. The apparition told St. Bernardette, a sickly 13-year-old, to pray for sinners and to drink from a spring.
The shrine and its waters have become a place for many miraculous healings.
Bishop Davies said St. Bernardette “represents all those little ones Pope Francis describes as discarded humanity. Mary of Nazareth greets and gently bows to Bernadette of Lourdes. And Bernadette asks, like Elizabeth: 'why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?'"
"Mindful of the millions who would fall victim to the wars and inhuman ideologies of the century and a half which followed Lourdes calls us to recognise the Gospel anew," he said.
The Lourdes shrine shows that the Church is against “everything which demeans the eternal value of the human person” and that the Church is for “the life and dignity of every man, woman and child.”
“Mary shows us here how placing those who are weakest, frailest at the centre our concerns brings not sadness and loss but joy, the joy of conversion.”
Bishop Davies noted the push to legalize assisted suicide in England and Wales, suggesting that the change in public opinion is “not dissimilar” to the emotionalism which led up to and accompanied World War I.
“At a time when our country is actively considering 'assisting' the sick and aged to kill themselves it seems once again that many who rejoice in such notions of 'progress' fail to see the consequences of 'the culture of death' they are creating.”
He cited Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ recent comment that Lourdes teaches about the human dignity of the sick and dying and “the exhausting demands and rewards of caring for them, the horizon of eternity.”
The Archbishop of Westminster had said at Lourdes July 17 that “here no one points to the dark door of suicide, assisted or not. Lourdes has far more to teach us about dying than the killing clinics of Holland or Switzerland.”
Bishop Davies said Lourdes is a cause for hope.
“It must give encouragement to all who work for ‘the cause of life’ that, as war and ideologies have passed, this light shining in Lourdes has remained undimmed.”
“We the generation of 2014 are surely invited here to glimpse anew the value of each and every person in the light of Heaven, in the light of the Gospel Mary brings with such urgency: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Some 900 people from the Diocese of Shrewsbury, ranging in age from infancy to 95, are on the diocese’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. Their prayer intentions include world peace and reconciliation on the anniversary of World War I, as well as prayers to uphold the rights and dignity of the elderly and vulnerable.