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A Leaven In The World… Marian Pilgrimage Leads To The Eucharistic Lord

August 14, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

I share with you this week the extraordinary journey I took to two places I have visited before, but which number among the very few that one can visit again and again without fear of exhausting their spiritual riches.
Can you name a rock star who draws a crowd every night of the week without even being physically present? Although our Lady’s appearances to visionaries Bernadette and Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco ceased many years ago, the throngs of faithful continue to come. They flock to the once filthy and abandoned grotto where the Mother of God promised happiness only in the next life to a poor and illiterate girl, Bernadette. Lourdes is second only to Paris for visitors to France.
And they come for prayer and sacrifice to Fatima. Their zealous seeking is at the heart of a worldwide spiritual bond shared by devotees of intense loyalty who number in the millions.
At Fatima the same heavenly Messenger appeared to the three shepherd children, warning them about the possibility of Hell for unrepentant souls and repeatedly urging prayer and sacrifice in intercession for sinners. This echoes the consistent message of Our Lady of Lourdes — that we must pray without ceasing and turn daily to the rosary for this.
Ostensibly every member of the Body of Christ holds Mary in reverence, believing as declared by the Church that she is the Virgin Mother of God. Required as we are to hold as matters of dogma both her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption, which feast we celebrate this week, there are many more who also look to her, “our life, our sweetness, and our hope,” as we say in the Salve Regina prayer.
Among the loyal adherents of the Woman at the heart of these places are those who trek the distance, no matter how arduous, to visit and pray at the sanctuaries built today where she appeared. Many are those who can seek to benefit only by reading about the accounts left by the few chosen souls through whom she conveys her messages of maternal care to all of us.
Many go further and realize the dream of actually being there where it happened. In the first rank among these holy places are Fatima and Lourdes, both of which I traveled to this month as a pilgrim marking the Fatima centenary.
Every religion has been expressed by spiritual seeking and in the places made necessary for those who search. So also in the Church some claim visions and others credulously assent to these claims no matter how unverified. Among these are the very few which have been investigated and found to be without error so that Catholics and others of goodwill may turn to them for salutary benefit. Fatima and Lourdes are two of these.
For those who investigate deeply, we find that in these instances, as always, Mary leads us to her Son. And she does so in order that He may come to us through the Church, above all in the Holy Eucharist.
Fatima’s basilica towers over a stark and dry landscape where it seems unlikely that locals seeking good grazing ground for the sheep who support their livelihood will meet with success. Tough and scrubby undergrowth and wiry windswept trees in sandy ground mimic the Texas landscape.
Just as an angel appeared to Mary to announce the Conception of the Savior 1,916 years before, so too among these survivors of dry and harsh conditions an angel appeared to three children in order to prepare them for Mary’s continued role of motherhood. Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco needed remedial instruction on the praying of the rosary to begin with. But after an initial lapse and under the angel’s continued instruction they learned to pray with regularity and advanced in their formation.
Likely unique in all of Church history, the children testified that they received their First Communion from the angel that same year. The presence of the sacrament in these encounters both ties the heavenly messenger to the Church and to the Lord. The Church on Earth is the continuing source of the Holy Eucharist. All graces come through the Church, most fully through the sacraments. The Lord Himself is always the source of all graces as sole Savior.
One finds the same centrality of the Eucharist in the Lourdes apparitions. Bernadette insists that it was the opportunity to prepare for her First Communion that drove her to make the most difficult decisions in her young life. She spent time separated from her family in the hope that it might give her the time and opportunity to learn her catechism, a necessary precursor to receiving the Lord for the first time in the Blessed Sacrament.
It was not because of the hard work in her situation, but only after falling asleep during catechism that she decided to give up what had once seemed an opportunity and return to her family. They were living at that time in penury: The only shelter available to them was the “cachot,” an abandoned prison. Her family of six lived all together, sleeping, eating, and praying in one room. Perhaps this helped them to be more grateful for the very basic necessities for life itself that so many of us in our good fortune can easily forget.
Bernadette returned home in the first days of January 1858 from what was a materially more advantageous and more comfortable situation in order to brighten her prospects for preparation for First Communion. In Lourdes she was able to attend school with the Sisters of Nevers.
It was a young sick girl with an impeded desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist to whom Mary appeared at the grotto for the first time on February 11, 1858. As if to prepare the girl herself, Mary sought her out at the grotto on the Gave river. Bernadette indeed received our Lord for the first time later that year in June on Corpus Christi.
How else can we interpret the fact that most of the healings at Lourdes come, not through the waters of the miraculous spring discovered by Bernadette at our Lady’s direction, but during the eucharistic procession usually held each week on Thursdays? Whether in the normal course of the Church’s life as we find in the Gospel or in the private revelations such as at Fatima and Lourdes, Mary continues to teach, “Do whatever He tells you.”
And He tells us, “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you.”
Amen.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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