Lourdes, the Fount of Mercy

In the seventh apparition at Lourdes which occurred on the 25th of February 1858, St. Bernadette was asked by the Blessed Mother to go to the fountain and wash. Mistakenly Bernadette went towards the river Gave but the Lady pointed to a spot beneath the grotto. Bernadette scratched the soil and some muddy water came forth. She cupped it in her hands covering her face with mud, much to the horror of onlookers. Finally, she was instructed to eat some bitter tasting herbs beside the little pool which again horrified and amused the onlookers who declared the little girl was insane. One of the onlookers would in time say about Bernadette in such a filthy state that, “We could have said that she bore all the sorrows of the world.”

We must remember that Bernadette resembles here Christ who spat on the ground making mud with his saliva in order to daub the eyes of the blind man in St. John’s Gospel. That poor muddied faced man was asked by the Lord to later wash in the pool of Siloam. (Jn 9:6-7) If we remember back to the book of Genesis it was with the soil of the earth that man was created, and in the waters of baptism we were washed into a new creation. The Blessed Mother asked that Bernadette would pray for sinners, and these small acts which brought her condemnation were a physical and yet symbolic reparation for the offences of mankind. The crowds that gathered at the grotto, jeered and mocked the young seer who was obedient to instructions of the Lady dressed in white. Christ Jesus too was jeered and mocked by his accusers both at the pillar of scourging and lastly upon the cross. Christ was offered bitter vinegar in his last moments of life again as a mockery but to fulfil the scriptures and here Bernadette eats bitter herbs, which symbolises the bitter herbs used to stuff the paschal lamb during the Passover feasts.

To scratch the soil and bring forth water reminds us of Moses striking the rock in the desert which brought forth water to refresh the people of Israel in the midst of their desert journey. Christ Jesus upon the cross will have his side pierced through with a spear bringing forth blood and water, the symbols of baptism and Eucharist, cleansing and nourishment for our life’s journey. Bernadette of Lourdes in this single apparition takes upon herself in obedience the face which becomes the icon of Christ in the world. Here in this muddied dark Grotto she will be instructed to have a church built where people will come with lighted lamps in honor of the Mother of God and for the worship of Christ our Redeemer. The Grotto is a place where Bernadette was ridiculed and laughed at, yet she was obedient to the words of the Lady. In that place where the waters continually flow, millions of people, both sick, suffering and sinners have washed in the waters which now run clear. In this great year of Mercy, let us draw near to the sacrament of reconciliation. Let is bring our muddied and stained souls to the fount of grace, the rock which was pierced out of love for us. The Virgin of Lourdes and her handmaid Bernadette invite us to repentance and to become the face of Christ in our world. All of us have the heritage of mud in us, but in Christ Jesus we have been set free and washed clean in the baptismal fount of his blood. Come to the water anew, which is Christ Jesus. The Virgin points to him, the true source, may his kingdom reign in our hearts, our families and our world.

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.

The Mother of God

In 431 AD, in the beautiful city of Ephesus in modern day Turkey, the bishops of the Church met to discuss various issues most notably the nature of Jesus. Interestingly, Mary had lived in Ephesus for some time after the events of that first Easter. In John’s Gospel we learn that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..” (John 1.14). So the council fathers affirmed (after not a little lively debate just like a recent gathering of Bishops in Rome)  that Jesus was made man, He was the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Thus the Dogma of the Mother of God was instituted.: Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus,” Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord,”  In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity,  Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God (Theotokos) (CCC 495).

Just over 100 years previously in 325 AD at Nicea, Bishops met to discuss the tradition that had been handed down from the time of our Lords life, that Mary, His mother was a virgin, when Jesus was born and she remained a virgin. The perpetual virginity of Mary is expressed in 3 parts: in her virginal conception of Christ; in giving birth to Christ, and her continuing virginity after His birth: we read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that Mary was virginitas ante partum: virgin before birth, virginitas in partu: virgin giving birth virtinitas post partum: virgin after birth: ‘Mary “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin”  “ with her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord”’ (Lk 1:38). (CCC 510). Of the three, the virginity “before giving birth” is crucial because it relates to the time of the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary and is the moment of the mystery of the Incarnation (see CCC499).

So from its foundation this has been constantly present in the Church’s belief. When the second Council of Constantinople met in 553 AD the truths which had been handed down from the foundations of the Church, the council fathers presented their affirmation thus; ‘If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non-temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema. The birth of Jesus, the Son of God from a virgin, free from sin was necessary “The virgin birth is the necessary origin of Him who is the Son and who as Son first endows the messianic hope with a permanent significance extending far beyond Israel”, (St Augustine).

Mr. Damien McDonnell, O.P.

Lay Dominicans, Kilkenny.

Rosary Letter – Winter

Dear Rosarians of the Rosary Apostolate.

Dominicans throughout the world have begun to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the founding of our Order in 1216. We have proclaimed a Jubilee Year, which is in thanksgiving for eight centuries of preaching the Incarnation of Christ and his love for us in the world, first begun in the man whom we call our father, St. Dominic De Guzman.

Dominic was a priest totally immersed in the person of the living Christ. He was an Icon of the Word made Flesh, in the midst of a darkened world. It was in this world that a light appeared and set fire to Europe with his preaching for the salvation of souls. This preacher of grace, aflame with the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin preached the mysteries of Christ which we to this day contemplate in the Holy Rosary. It is a celebration not only of the founding of such a great Order but also a Jubilee of the Rosary meditated, recited and preached by Dominicans for 800 years.

Early Dominicans referred to the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of Mercy, and so it is very fitting that the Church around the world has begun a Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is to Mary we return in order to learn of Christ and his Incarnation. It is to the Mother of Mercy that we turn that she may pray with us and intercede for us while we meditate on the mysteries of her Son, which so preoccupied her heart. St. Dominic De Guzman the great preacher of mercy and grace found solace and strength in the company of the Virgin of the Rosary, may we too in this double Jubilee year find that same solace and strenght while meditating on Christ, the merciful Redeemer who came to save souls.

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.