Virtual Lourdes Pilgrimage
4th June 2022
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
One of the most outstanding effects of the internet and the development of all kinds of social media is the explosion of ways in which we can connect and communicate with one another – at the press of a button – literally.
From one end of the earth to another we can be in touch. The development of Zoom meetings, accelerated by Covid, has become a new word in our vocabulary and a new form of connection and community. This very pilgrimage, though we call it “virtual” while different in its connection is nevertheless real and of deep meaning for us all. So regretful though we are at not being in Lourdes we are thankful for this shared time of faith, reflection and prayer and for the imaginative technology and preparation that has made it possible for us.
This morning with this celebration of Mass we set out on our pilgrim path on which over these coming days we will pause with one another each day for prayer which will give us an opportunity to punctuate our days with a retreat like spirit whereby these coming days will have a more reflective feel.
Our first step on the pilgrim path is Lourdes itself and all it means to us. Our Lady’s unique encounter with Bernadette and all it represents, in its simplicity on one level and its profound mystery on another is key. The Church through its prayer and practice over the centuries fleshed out the special place of Mary as protector and guide in the ways of God in our midst. St. John’s Gospel is the inspiration of these reflections. The first from the marriage feast of Cana – with her instruction to the servants “to do as he (Jesus) tells you”, which when fulfilled there was wine in abundance. The second is from the presence of Mary and John at the foot of the cross when Jesus “seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her said “Woman this is your son”. Then to the disciple he said “this is your mother”. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home”. John 19:26-27
The story of Lourdes connects our lives, our hopes, concerns, our frailty and sickness in a way that is different from the connection and communication of technology. The Lourdes story touches the mind and heart whereby the love and mercy of God is revealed and experienced through the Lord Jesus and his Blessed Mother Mary.
Setting out on the pilgrim path we bring naturally our individual inner journey at this time. For the blessings we enjoy we give thanks from our hearts. For any cross or pain we carry we seek the strength to bear patiently without bitterness.
We bring too the concerns of those close to us – whose struggle or challenge they share with us as family and friends. That we may be good and faithful companions on the journey.
The mind of Mary invites us to keep close to our hearts the needs of the Church throughout the world – she shared the upper room with the disciples and no doubt strengthened them in their witness. We ask her maternal care for the Holy Father Pope Francis as he seeks with all others in leadership to gather the flock of disciples into a new harmony and spirit of purpose through a global synodal pathway.
Life in Christ calls us always into communion with one another and the whole human family. We bring with us therefore to our prayer those afflicted by war, violence and conflict. Those in the Ukraine who are suffering the horrors of war are constantly in our thoughts and those in our midst who are fleeing its terror.
So these pilgrim days are a blessed opportunity to pray for healing and hope, for the healing of personal wounds and scars, for the calming of anxious minds and hearts for the blessing of peace in our world.