The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant and Preacher at a special Votive Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes, for the Association of Lourdes Pilgrimage Directors of Great Britain, in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Wednesday, 7 November.
The Association held its annual two-day conference in a nearby hotel.
Among the 20 concelebrants at the Mass were Fr Peter Sharrocks, Chairman of the Association, (Diocese of Shrewsbury); Fr Paul Farrer, Secretary (Diocese of Middlesbrough); Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral and Pilgrimage Director, Archdiocese of Birmingham, Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomed the Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage Directors of Great Britain together with their staff and those who offer their professional support to this work of the Church.
The Archbishop of Birmingham spoke briefly about the floods in France during October when the Gave de Pau River burst its banks after days of rain, flooding the grotto at Lourdes to about a metre. The area around the shrine and nearby streets was flooded and much damage, but no loss of life, was caused. Pilgrims, including the sick and disabled had to be evacuated.
Archbishop Longley said:
“It was particularly poignant (today) to hear the reading from the Prophet Isaiah with its reference to a river … a stream in spate. We can be grateful that no lives were lost through the recent floods and pray that a collective effort will enable the Shrine to repair what was damaged.”
The Archbishop continued:
“As we reflect on the discipleship of Mary through St John’s Gospel it is good to recall the recent Synod of Bishops’ reference to pilgrimage as an agency for the new evangelization. There was particular reference to Lourdes as a place that calls people back to the celebration of the sacraments and to a more fervent and fruitful practice of their faith.
“The account of the Wedding Feast of Cana (in the Gospel just read) offers us some remarkable insights into the place of Our Lady in the mission of her Son and of the Church. The Synod spoke of her as the Star of the New Evangelization adapting a title first given to Mary by Pope Paul VI. Her life and example are like a light guiding the world towards Christ the source of redemption.
“In our own relationship with Christ we can have confidence in following the promptings of Mary his mother, helping us to focus our lives on Jesus himself and encouraging us to be obedient to his word. Before we can do what he tells us we have to enter into an act of profound listening to hear his voice in our lives.”
The Archbishop emphasised:
“Every pilgrimage to Lourdes reminds us of the relationship between our Lord and his mother. As a child he would have run to his mother for comfort or healing if he was hurt or unwell.
As the Lord brings healing and wholeness he calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter who brings peace to our hearts. In your most valuable work you prepare the way for Christ to come again into the lives of those who are sick or searching.
Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his homily:
“The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete or Advocate – the one who speaks for us or who gives us a voice. How often as pilgrimage directors you have to find the right words to help another person – that too is a spiritual gift and it begins by seeing Christ in others.
“Lourdes emphasises the presence of our Lord in the people we meet. How wonderful his love that he shows himself to us in those who ask for our support.”
The final hymn Immaculate Mary! Our hearts are on fire, was a poignant reminder of how people for many parishes throughout Great Britain go with their dioceses on an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the south of France. There to join with pilgrims from countries throughout the world at this holy place, where Our Lady appeared to a local shepherd girl, Bernadette Soubirous now Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, during 1858.
© Peter Jennings