The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Lessons Lourdes Offers to Evangelists and Catechists

Authored by Barbara Davies in Issue #10.2 of Catechetical Review

Many were the attempts made in Europe during the nineteenth century to redefine and refashion human existence. Significantly, over the same period there were three major apparitions in which Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, was present: Rue du Bac in Paris, France (1830); Lourdes, France (1858); and Knock, Ireland (1879). Taken together, these offer the answer to humanity’s searching. Let us look particularly at Mary’s eighteen apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes.

In February 1934, one year after Bernadette’s canonization, Msgr. Ronald Knox preached a sermon in which he compares the young girl’s experience with that of Moses, even suggesting we might see Lourdes as a modern-day Sinai.[1] We should note that the events on Sinai are at the heart of biblical revelation, whereas those in Lourdes were private revelations later acknowledged by the Church to be for our good; yet, Knox finds many similarities between the two. Both, for example, took place on the slopes of hills; Moses and Bernadette were shepherds at the time; for both, a solitary experience resulted in the gathering of great crowds. Moses took off his shoes out of reverence for holy ground; Bernadette removed hers to cross a mill stream. Each was made aware of a mysterious presence demanding their attention: for one, by a fire that burned but did not consume; for the other, at the sound of a strong wind that did not move trees and the sight of a bright light that did not dazzle.

Moses was to lead the people out of bondage, though the Hebrews fell back to the worship of a golden calf. Knox writes that Bernadette was also “sent to a world in bondage,” a bondage in which it rejoiced. He finds significance in the fact that her visions took place in the middle of the Victorian age, when material plenty had given rise to materialism, “a spirit which loves . . . and is content with the good things of this life, [which] does not know how to enlarge its horizons and think about eternity.” Bernadette “was sent to deliver us from that captivity of thought; to make us forget the idols of our prosperity, and learn afresh the meaning of suffering and the thirst for God.” “That,” Knox uncompromisingly affirms, “is what Lourdes is for; that is what Lourdes is about—the miracles are only a by-product.” The preacher has no doubt of our own need for this message: “We know that in this wilderness of drifting uncertainties, our modern world, we still cling to the old standard of values, still celebrate . . . the worship of the Golden Calf.”

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting [email protected]

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