Homily for Lourdes

Tuesday, 2nd of July, 2023, 7 Dolors Church

Last Tuesday morning on the plane while leaving Shannon airport, the pilgrimage director, Fr. Tom kindly gave me a copy of this attractive publication entitled Booklet to help you prepare for The 2023 Pilgrimage to Lourdes!

Obviously Fr. Tom felt that some people, mainly yours truly, needed a little refresher and extra study… and he was absolutely correct!

In the booklet, one section really caught my attention.  It was a section called Community Celebration – Lourdes Gestures.

  • Gesture one was The Gesture of the Rock.
  • The second being the Gesture of Water or Washing Clean.
  • The third that of Lighting a Candle.

If you research the meaning of the word gesture what you get is:

: a movement of the body or limbs that expresses or emphasizes an idea or a feeling. : something said or done by way of courtesy or for its effect on other people.

What a rich concept and so full of possibility and depth of meaning!

You have often heard the phrase – a meaningful gesture.  And so we do a little exploration.

There are so many gestures that we appreciate in life.

  • A handshake. A hug.  A favor done.
  • The gesture of giving or receiving a thank you card for a good deed.
  • The gesture of a small gift when you visit someone.
  • The gesture of sending a text or message to someone to check in to see how they are doing.

Faith Gestures

There are so many gestures of faith, so full of meaning!

  • The gesture of blessing oneself before prayer or passing a Holy Place.
  • The gesture of genuflecting before the tabernacle.
  • Going on two knees and bowing before the blessed sacrament exposed.
  • The humble gesture of lying prostrate on the ground seeking God’s blessing before Ordination.
  • I love the gesture when we proclaim the Gospel of signing the cross on our foreheads, understanding it, on our lips, proclaiming it and on our hearts loving it.

There are so many other simple gestures that mean to much to people:

  • The gesture of bringing a prayer card or bottle of holy water to someone at home.
  • One of our youngest pilgrims, Eva from Portroe who played the whistle at our closing Mass, whom I recently had the privilege of Confirming told me during this week of a gesture that’s now popular for the last week of term in primary schools – that on the last day the whole school gathers to clap 6th class goodbye, a gesture of farewell and good wishes.
  • Elaine who proclaimed the word of God at our opening Mass spoke one day at lunch of an interesting gesture, saying that while she might not often give money to someone begging on the street, she will always look at them and greet them, thereby acknowledging their dignity.

We learn so much from each other and there are so many gestures to make such a great difference to the good and how we feel about ourselves and others.

Returning to the gestures of Lourdes 2023.

Gesture of the Rock

Firstly the gesture of the rock.  We have all experienced the gesture of touching the rock in the grotto, the bedrock of the amazing religious structure with two Churches above it.  Being able to touch with our own hands the rock that contains the source and meaning of that sacred location, the presence of Our Lady there to young Bernadette all those years ago.  The Rock being a great biblical image, conveys the steadfastness, the solidness, the strength of God in our lives.  My prayer today is that this experience of the Presence of the Blessed Mother and St. Bernadette will be for you a rock in your life when you need it.

Gesture of the Water

In the same location of the rock we have the Sacred Spring and adjacent to that the Baths of Lourdes just over the road the Confessional chapel and they together combine the second gesture of the symbol of the cleansing of water.  Water being the symbol of washing clean and healing what needs attention, from the many battles of life, external and internal.

In the washing clean in the sacrament of reconciliation, the washing clean in the baths of Lourdes of our hands, our face and drinking the water of spring, in those sacred gestures we move from what Fr. Brendan described at our reconciliation service from misery to mercy.  The Lourdes gesture of the cleansing water.

Gesture of Light

Just over the river in the candle area we engage with the third gesture, that of light.  We did that by lighting our own personal candles, by bringing ours and others intentions in the diocesan pilgrimage, the candle lit yesterday morning and also in our prayers through the lighted candles of the night time procession each evening.  May that light brighten up the vista when darkness closes in.  The Lourdes gesture of light.

In this most sacred of locations may we be people of good gestures as we return home.   May those good gestures truly animate our potential to be people of faith, being agents of :

  • the Godly solidness of the rock,
  • the cleansing effect of the waters of new life in Jesus Christ
  • and the brightness of that same light.

All through the intercession of St. Bernadette and Our blessed mother in this Church of the 7 dolors here in Lourdes.  Amen!