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Lourdes: a vision of what society & church should be

By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 September, 2014

lourdesLourdes can give us a vision of what society and the church should be like Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said.

The Archbishop of Dublin, who is on pilgrimage at the French shrine with 2,000 sick, carers and volunteers from his diocese, said that in a world of constant change, the experience of Lourdes remains constant.

“The inexplicable character of Lourdes, its simplicity, its serenity, its joyfulness and its real care for each other remind us also of what society should be like. Each year at the end of the pilgrimage I ask myself why are we not able to translate this experience here in Lourdes into the way we live when we return home.”

“I ask why our society in many areas is uncaring.  I ask why we cannot be in the forefront of fostering at home the different lifestyle we encounter here in our interaction.”

Referring to those who often talk about the Church in terms of institution, the Archbishop noted, “Curiously those who criticise what they call ‘the institutional Church’ are often more than willing to use the institutional aspects of the Church to voice their criticism.”

The Archbishop said that Pope Francis constantly talks about the Church in different terms such as as a mother.

“Mary is the one who teaches us what the motherhood of the Church should mean. The Pope said that Mary’s maternity is unique, but that the maternity of the Church is the continuation in history of the motherhood of Mary.”

He said that in Lourdes pilgrims gain an experience of the protective care of Mary for the  sick or healthy, young or ageing.

“All of us have within our hearts our doubts, our anxieties, and our fears. Mary followed the will of the Lord fully in her life. She lived a life of simplicity and humility, just as Bernadette in her life. The word of God can enter into our hearts and change us only when we live a life of simplicity.”

“It is only though simplicity of life that we realise that our lives are not just in our own hands, but that we are always accompanied and supported in every aspect of our lies – even in our darkest difficulties – by Jesus the Lord,” the Archbishop said.

Dr Martin suggested that in Lourdes we come to understand more how we are called to build a Church marked not by external signs of institution or power, but by an avalanche of supporting and welcoming and inspiring trust and hope.

“In the complex and often superficial culture of our world it is the simplicity of Mary and Bernadette which we should be embracing in our lives as an antidote to the world of compromise that exists around us.”

Archbishop Martin cited the figure of St Joseph as a man of integrity who maintains his integrity and loyalty even at moments when he does not fully comprehend what is being asked of him.

“In these days may we all pray for the gift of integrity in our search for meaning in circumstances which we do not fully comprehend?”

“We pray with and for our sick people that they will understand how the Lord is with them in the mystery – and at times in the harshness and loneliness – of their illness.”

“We pray for our young people that they will not fall into compromise with regard to principles and ideals.”

“We pray for our priests who are called to minister with courage to their faith in a culture which at times may seem alien and negative.”

Elsewhere in his homily at the opening Mass of the Dublin diocesean pilgrimage, Archbishop Martin said Lourdes turns the tables on how we think and act.

“Healthy and sick interact as friends. Here in Lourdes the sick are privileged as they experience genuine care which consoles them and encourages them; the helpers encounter in the sick a sense of how life can be fulfilled and be happy without many of the consumerist supports we all too often convince ourselves – or allow ourselves to be convinced – are essential.”

“Young and old encounter each other. The young are encouraged by the experience and care and wisdom of those veterans of the pilgrimage. The veterans find renewed encouragement from the idealism and the freshness of the young people. We all realise that there is something special about Lourdes because it tells us something of what is truly essential in life.”

Separately, on Friday 12 September 2014, over 800 pilgrims from the Diocese of Meath will travel to Lourdes, returning on Wednesday 17 September 2014.

This will be the 67th Meath diocesan pilgrimage.  It will be led by Bishop Michael Smith who has led the pilgrimage for 31 years consecutively.

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