At the time of the apparition of Our Lady in 1858, Bernadette was 14 years old. She could neither read nor write nor had she made her First Holy Communion. She was from a destitute family and suffered terribly from asthma. But before time began, God had chosen her to be his instrument to make known His great love and mercy for all the world, particularly for those ensnared in the bonds of sin.
Our Lady appeared in a dirty, dank hole, a stone grotto which the locals called the pigs’ shelter. Our Lady was clothed in a dazzling white dress girded in blue. On her feet there were yellow roses. On March 25, 1858, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Lady revealed herself by telling Bernadette, I am the Immaculate Conception (que soy era immaculada concepciou). That would be the last time that Bernadette would see Our Lady in this world. Only four years previously Blessed Pope Pius IX had proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which taught that Our Lady had been immaculately conceived in the womb of her mother, receiving the saving grace of her Son in anticipation of her divine motherhood. Interestingly, Our Lady did not speak French during the apparitions but the dialect proper to the border region of France and Spain. This dialect is no longer widely spoken. When heard, the dialect resembles modern Portuguese. St. Bernadette was unable to speak or understand French and so Our Lady spoke her dialect
In the course of the apparitions (of which there were 15 lasting from February 11, 1858 through March 25, 1858) Our Lady made known that she wished a Church to be built at the place where she appeared where the people could come in procession. She also revealed the little stream which became a flowing torrent of which she said the people should drink the water. (As we know many not only drink of the water but they even bathe in the waters at Lourdes). She told Bernadette that she would make her happy, not in this world but in the next.
Today over six million people come to Lourdes each year to find healing in mind, body and soul. In the grotto at Lourdes where Our Lady appeared is a lovely statue of the Virgin Mary based upon St. Bernadette’s description. Many years after the apparition, St. Bernadette was permitted to return to the grotto (although her identity was unknown) and when asked if the statue resembled Our Lady, St. Bernadette responded, not in the least. The Lady was much more beautiful. The statue is a magnificent piece of art work executed by the famous sculptor from Lyons, Jean Fabisch. Nevertheless St. Bernadette was profoundly disappointed in the work for she said Our Lady was both younger and shorter than the statue makes her out to be.
Because so many of the sick have visited Lourdes it is good for us today to consider sickness in the life of the Christian. The sick person is called in a unique way to give witness to the Crucified. In other words, the sick person is someone who knows that the world is filled with suffering, who knows that Love has triumphed over everything, over all absurdity and every assault from death. The sick person is one who knows, in the Light of the Resurrection, that glory radiates from the place of suffering, of agony accepted with Christ. The sick person is invited by Our Lord to join Him in the redemption of the world. When suffering is accepted for the sake of Christ it brings many graces to the suffering person and to the world. No wonder the saints tell us that the prayers of the Sick are the most powerful. It is because the Sick are united to Our Lord in a special way.
At Lourdes the Sick are treated with great love and respect. They are all VIP’s in a manner of speaking. And so to our sick parishioners, may ask you to offer your sufferings to Our Lord for the sake of your families and for the needs of the Universal Church and for the parish. May God always bless the Sick.
First Confession: Sincere congratulations to our second graders who made their first confessions on Saturday February 1st. The little ones were so joy filled that day coming under the great and abundant mercy of God. May they receive this sacrament frequently and with love and devotion. They will receive Our Lord for the first time in the Blessed Eucharist at the time of their First Holy Communion in the spring. We thank Mrs. Louise Shannon, Faith Formation Administrator, and Mrs. Joan Owens, Grade Level Coordinator, and all the dedicated catechists and aides. May God bless and reward them. Three visiting priests assisted us at St. Paul’s that day: Father Daniel, the pastor of St. Patrick, Glen Cove; Father Elias, the pastor of St. Rocco, Glen Cove, and Father Garrett of the Marianist Fathers who serve St. Paul with such dedication.
Lent: The grace filled season of Lent is approaching and will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 5th. Please make every effort to observe a Holy Lent and to be faithful to the times of fasting and abstinence. In the first week of Lent Father Thomas Cardone will preach our Lenten retreat. Father Cardone is a Marianist Father who has been of invaluable assistance at St. Paul. He is the former provincial of the Marianists and is now on the faculty of Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale. Father has given his whole 29 years of priesthood to tireless pastoral service and we are blessed to welcome Fr. Cardone. Please make every effort to attend the mission at which time there will be many opportunities for confession. On each of the Fridays of Lent there will be the Stations of the Cross in the Church and on each Wednesday of Lent there will be adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel at which Monsignor Pereda will offer a spiritual meditation.
RCIA: I am very grateful to two of our parishioners Jesmel and Sachi who will coordinate along with me the RCIA. This is a program for the reception of converts into the Church and for the catechizing of adult Catholics. Already we have three adults to be prepared for Confirmation and one adult preparing to be received into the Church.
Altar Guild: I am very pleased that we have reinstated our Altar Guild under the direction of Mrs. Ursula Coughlin. She will be looking for helpers in this important work of caring for the Church and the sacred things used for Divine Worship. In the words of King David we pray, Lord I have loved the beauty of thy House and the place where thy glory dwells.
May God bless and reward all of you for your goodness to St. Paul’s and to me. I am most unworthy to be your pastor and so I ask your kindness in praying for me.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Marry,
Monsignor James F. Pereda