There’s a place at the Grotto in Lourdes that marks the spot where St. Bernadette knelt in prayer the day Our Lady appeared to her, and for the first few days of our pilgrimage I tried to get to this place. I like it because it represents pure childlike vision that sees what adults cannot see and hears what adults do not hear.
Every time I went there this past week the place was crowded and I couldn’t get to the spot but one evening as I was praying in the quiet of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel a strong wind came rushing through the trees, pounding like thunder on the roof and, when I went outside, I saw that the wind was carrying black heavy clouds. The wind reminds me of the Holy Spirit and always makes me feel that Mary is close at hand. I knew what this wind would do and it did!
It sent pilgrims running for cover and by the time I reached the Grotto the place was almost empty. So I knelt in Bernadette’s place with a feeling of great joy and represented everyone I was praying for, with a special prayer for those who have Bernadette as one of their names. I felt very strongly that Divine Providence brought me there and that Divine Providence was listening to me, listening to all of us.
The Providence of God did not just bring me there so that I could pray and be heard but I was brought there also so that I might see what are the essentials in life that need to be seen and hear what needs to be heard.
It’s what the readings today (23rd Sunday) are asking of all of us – that the eyes and ears of our heart, mind and soul be opened; that our tongues be loosened so that we may speak what needs to be spoken for our time.
The photo of the lifeless little boy on the beach has caused us all to stop and take notice of the terrible tragedy of the migrants and refugees of North Africa and the Middle East. It has moved most of us to want to do something practical about the situation and at the very least there is a demand that our government do what is right and give shelter to as many of these unfortunate people as is possible; we want them to do more than they were planning to do. The plight of the refugees has been in the news for a very long time now but it took the sight of the boy lying on the beach to wake us up.
It has also brought home to us that maybe we will all have to get involved personally – by fundraising, donating and some will even give space in their homes to refugees. It’s always easier to say that someone else has to solve the problem but our conscience tells us now that all of us are part of the solution.
And when we think of the homelessness of our foreign brothers and sisters, then it brings to mind the fact that there are many homeless families and individuals already in our own country. Is anything going to be done for them?
We do not have to make it an either-or situation as some are suggesting – we do not have to neglect our own homeless in order to welcome those from far away but neither do we have to refuse the foreigner because we are ignoring the plight of our own. We have to see and hear the plight of both; pray in faith and act in faith for both.
“Say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, for water gushes in the desert, streams in the wasteland”
We pray that we may provide streams of grace in the wasteland of the homeless, especially those whose lives are at risk right now.