Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Lady of Lourdes

Today the church celebrates Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her appearance to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, on this day in 1858. Much has been written about these events, and like most publicly fantastic events there is a wide range of opinion as to the veracity of some or all of the details. But to my mind, little of that matters.

The point is not found in the details of the event but rather is to be found in the details of the reactions. The event is history, in the past, gone except for the memory. What remains - more clear to some and less clear to others - are the effects of the event, primarily found in such ephemeral things as recollection, imagination, attitude, context, faith, and feelings. Yet in many ways, such things are the more important pieces, if we really think about it for a minute. It's as if God trusts us to be able to respond in ways that will move us forward in our relationship with Him and with each other.

This idea is one that Anthony Bloom brilliantly explains in a short video (one of the only ones of him that I've found) where he answers a question about suffering for the BBC.

The point is that the same is true of Mary and her role in our life, our history, and the Church's history. In her, we have one who is like us in almost every way that we might imagine. And she is a wonderful model, in the details of what she did and how she did it, of how we might also respond to God's direction in our life. She was open to God's guidance, responded in the best way she knew how, and trusted that God would show her the way each day. Nobody told her that it was easy; but she knew that it was good.

De La Salle says that "she is indeed a star which enlightens, guides, and leads us to a harbor in the stormy sea of this world... She will enlighten you and help you know God's will for you because she shares in the light of Jesus Christ her son." (Med 164.1)

This morning, at Mass in the Provincialate Community, and during the Our Father, I looked up and was literally blinded by the sun streaming into the chapel window shown above, the one of the Annunciation. The sun was streaming in through her face and struck me full on. After being taken aback, I took out my iPhone and took a quick picture (below). I don't quite know what to make of it - the historical event - but I sure was touched by it and continue to reflect on its effects in me - like a seed in my soul.

No need to be overly dramatic about it. But there's a quiet depth here that won't easily or quickly go away. And I imagine that this is the case for many of God's actions in our lives: quiet, deep, and full of potential (by us).