In one of the most emotional moments of his trip to Lourdes, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Mass this morning at the Shrine of Lourdes before thousands of sick patients. In his homily, he reminded the pilgrims that “Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces.”
The Pope began his morning by completing the fourth stage of “The Lourdes Jubilee Way.” The final stage of the Way is a visit to the hospital oratory where, St. Bernadette received First Communion. The Holy Father prayed in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament and pronounced the fourth and final prayer of the Jubilee Way.
Yesterday, the Pontiff visited the three other stages associated with St. Bernadette’s life: the font where she was baptized, the home where she lived with her family and the grotto where Mary appeared to her.
After completing the Jubilee Way, the Pope celebrated Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Speaking in his homily, Pope Benedict said, “We contemplate Mary sharing her Son's compassion for sinners. As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering, so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before 'giving up’ His spirit: that of becoming the mother of Christ in His members."
The Holy Father recalled that in Lourdes, during the first apparition of Mary to St. Bernadette, Our Lady “first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery.”
"In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures," he added, "is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God's tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.”
The Pope explained that “the endurance of suffering can upset life's most stable equilibrium, it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace.”
"When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. “Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and His Holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering."
Benedict also acknowledged that those who suffer and those who struggle and are tempted to “turn their backs on life,” but he encouraged them to “turn towards Mary!” “Within the smile of the Virgin lies the hidden strength to fight against sickness, in support of life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."
The Holy Father emphasized that "to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are 'the richest of the people.' 'The richest,' that is to say, in the order of faith, are those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God.”
How Christ Encounters the Sick
Referring particularly to the sick, the Pope recalled that “Christ imparts His salvation by means of the Sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the Sacrament of the Sick.”
“For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still - as certain great witnesses of Christ's holiness have done - to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation,” he remarked.
"The grace of this Sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; He eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces,” he explained.
The Pontiff added that “without the Lord’s help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly.” He explained that "By receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through His promise to us that His yoke will be easy to carry and His burden light."
After finishing his homily, Pope Benedict administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to 10 pilgrims, some on stretchers or in wheelchairs.
Following the Mass, the Pope traveled to Antoine Beguere stadium where he was taken by helicopter to the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees Airport.