The Appearing of Our Lady at Lourdes

(France, 1858)

Dear Laura,

Your last note made me sadder than I have been in a long time.  Your defense of your “boyfriend,” as you call him (an odd name for someone who is acting as if he were courting you), claiming how upright he is, how Christian in his morals, how solid in his virtue (most evangelical Protestants are, you know; we ought to be inspired by their example on that score) – it was all quite irrelevant when you mentioned that due to his “sincere and heartfelt protestations” (I can just imagine them) you have “temporarily stopped praying the Rosary.”  When I read those words my heart turned in on itself like a black hole. My dear, dear niece, do you realize what you are doing? First, it is the rosary, then it will be confession, then Mass, then who knows what! Imagine how your mother would react if she heard such a thing! Remember, you do not live in a pro-Christian culture, let alone a pro-Catholic culture. If you let passing infatuations with good-looking beaus alter your spiritual priorities, you are setting yourself up for a tragic drama.  

Do you remember what happened on this day in 1858?  Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Jesus Christ, Son of God, appeared to a 14-year-old French peasant girl outside a tiny town called Lourdes, eighty miles from the nearest railway.  And do you remember what she did, this surpassingly beautiful but humble and modest figure dressed all in white, with a blue belt at her waist and a long rosary on her arm? She smiled, and without saying a word, invited the young girl (St Bernadette Soubirous) to pray with her.  So Bernadette took her rosary out of her pocket and began to pray it, and Our Lady began to pray it with her, fingering each bead as it was prayed, but not moving her lips.  And thus began the series of visions that led to the establishment of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, site of countless miracles and to this day a place of faith-building pilgrimage for Catholics (and non-Catholics, you may be interested to know) from all over the globe.  

If nothing else, today’s feast should remind you that the Catholic faith alone contains the fullness of Christian revelation, and the devotion of the Rosary, besides having been validated beyond measure by countless saints, is one of the Church’s most prolific methods of prayer.  Perhaps you need to visit a holy priest or sister and ask them to refresh you about how to pray the Rosary (isn’t there a discalced Carmelite convent not too far away from campus? I seem to remember there being one), or perhaps you need to do a serious examination of conscience to find out why your spiritual sensitivity is waning.  In any case, before packing away your beads, you better try to explain yourself to Mary and to Jesus – ask their advice if you don’t give much account to mine.

Perhaps this has seemed harsh.  If so, it’s only because I care so much about you.  The only thing I want for you is deep and lasting happiness, so when I see you forfeiting the unquenchable source of it in order to drink from “leaky cisterns,” as Scripture puts it (Cf. Jeremiah 2:13), it makes me boil.  Do count on my prayers.

Sincerely, your loving uncle, Eddy

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