Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

I see by the links that today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I remember as a child being fascinated by the apparition stories. Bernadette was a heroine of sorts and the movie made in the 1940's, "The Song of Bernadette" is one of the loveliest movies ever made, in my opinion.

People asked my mother why my parents didn't take me to Lourdes for the healing shrine was being written about and was known all over the world. I think the answer was quite simple. Although my mother certainly had enough faith, we did not have the money to take the family--even though we were only four--on such a long and expensive journey. Mama probably spoke sufficient French to make the trip work, if there had been that money. On the other hand, I can't imagine the disappointment if the "miracle" had not worked!

All of my life I have been interested in sacred or charismatic healing though, even though I have not experienced it in so dramatic or complete a way. Prayer for healing has been part of my life in other ways, smaller than being able to hang the crutches on the shrine wall and walk away. The tradition of healing continues at Lourdes, at Knock, at the church of St. Jean Baptist in New York, where the statue of St. Ann has been ascribed healing powers and at Beaupre, Canada where another statue of St. Anne also resides. I have a small, cast iron St. Anne figure that my mother brought back from Beaupre when she made a trip there at some time in the 1930's. (I've incorporated it into a design on my cafepress shop. Here it is on the tote bag.)

You can find it under a section "For All the Saints" if you click on the link to my shop in the links to the right.

The statue is one of my most loved possessions for its connection to Mama and because of the ease and familiarity that she had in praying to St. Ann, almost as though St. Ann was right there in the kitchen and would hear and take heart. That kind of Catholic familiarity with the saints is part of the legacy I have from my Mama.

For the next week, I will be thinking of Mama most particularly for this is the week of the anniversary of her death. She "coded" on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, fitting for she loved Mary under all of her titles. Mama's heart did not stop beating until February 19, though, so that is her official death date.

Late on in my journey, I read Victor Turner's book on pilgrimage and was struck particularly by the chapter on healing shrines in Ireland, where people left crutches, rosaries and pieces of cloth tied to tree limbs or "clooties" as they were known, to mark a miracle, a victory of the liminal over physical illness or injury.

I am grateful for this heritage, this feast day and the opportunity to share it with you. If you want to know more specifically of the story of Lourdes, please click on the link to the right--better yet, watch the movie.

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