Today, February 11 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes marks the observance of the World Day of the Sick. This celebration is a reminder to pray for the sick and to recognize for all those who work in health care and serve as caregivers.
But today also marks a milestone in the history of our Church, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has taken today Feb. 11, which also precedes the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, to make the announcement of his resignation : “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.” (Context of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation).
Decision was an act of humility through the guidance of the Holy Spirit
No doubt Pope Benedict’s decision was made after much prayer and discernment of the will of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We might never know the complete dynamics of Pope Benedict’s decision, but nonetheless it was an act that took a lot of humility on the part of the Holy Father.
I like the quote of Sr. Mary Theresa of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist that appeared on facebook: “Pope John Paul II remained in office so that he might show us how to suffer and how to die. Pope Benedict XVI is leaving the Papal Office so that he might show us how to live in humble honesty.”
It is not by chance that the Holy Father chose February 11 which marks the World Day of the Sick and Suffering. This is the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette in a little grotto in the Pyrenees Mountains of France in 1858. At that time, no one understood how and why the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear to a 14-year-old uneducated shepherdess. However, the Blessed Virgin Mary ended up appearing to St. Bernadette 18 times. Thousands of people witnessed the apparitions where many healings and miracles occurred.
At one time the Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Bernadette to bathe and drink from an unknown spring which was hidden under the ground. At first Bernadette dug into the dirt and ended up being ridiculed as she became covered in mud. However, eventually the water started to run clear. Since that time the spring has been continually flowing. On the Feast of the Annunciation, The Blessed Virgin Mary announced her name to St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” These events led to the veneration of Mary in Lourdes which has become a place of prayer, pilgrimage, conversion, and healing.
On change and transition
Most of us don’t like change. Transitions often involve saying goodbye to an old way of doing things and stepping into the unknown. In spite of how much we might dislike change, it is the only way that we can progress in our journey and sometimes this involves discovery what God might have in store for us in the road ahead. It takes a great deal of humility and courage to follow the guidance of the Holy Spiril, even when such might not appear popular on the surface.
My family and I have had the opportunity to visit Lourdes, France twice. The first was on a pilgrimage to France in 2004. The second was before I started my studies in clinical psychology in 2008 which was the 150 anniversary of the apparitions. We have also been able to attend Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on two occasions. The last was Easter Sunday Mass in 2012. I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to do this with my family.
Remember the sick on this feast day. Remember our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for each one of us and especially the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.