Today (February 11th) the Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. This title and apparition of our Blessed Mother has always held a special place in the hearts of the Fathers of Mercy — it was at Lourdes that Our Lady called herself “The Immaculate Conception” — and our community is consecrated to her under that very title. Are there a few lessons that we can learn from today’s feast day?
Our Lady asked St. Bernadette, then still a young peasant girl, to “pray for the conversion of sinners.” Bernadette did not understand what that meant, and when she would ask, Our Lady would just smile. How beautiful it is when a person still has that fundamental innocence! Would that we all still had that child-like innocence where we are not even aware that there are people who deliberately offend Almighty God! But most of us today, even most children, no longer have that innocence. Our children are exposed to the reality of evil at a very young age. Would it not be better to shield them, to let them be surrounded by virtue and the love of God and all that is good and beautiful for as long as possible? This is not to say that they should not be taught right from wrong, good from evil, virtue from vice — but this teaching should be done when they are truly ready for it; it should not be forced upon them at too young of an age.
Do we pray, on a frequent basis, for the conversion of sinners? Some might say: “But we are all sinners” — and so we are. So we need to pray for ourselves, and all of our fellow men and women who are caught up in various forms of sinful behavior. At Fatima, Our Blessed Lady said that souls were “falling into hell like snowflakes” due to sins of the flesh — and that was in 1917! How many people are caught up, enslaved, in sins of the flesh today? When we think of the sheer numbers of people who engage in premarital and extra-marital affairs, or use artificial contraception [“birth control” — G. K. Chesterton said he hated that term because there is “no birth and no control”], or who have been sterilized (and not repented of doing it), or who engage in homosexual behavior, or who use pornography, etc. — it is frightening. But we KNOW that Our Lord Jesus Christ died for all of us — that He suffered and died to redeem all of us from all of our sins — so there is hope! But you and I have to do our part, we have to cooperate with Him by praying for those who are still caught up in various forms of sinful behavior, by offering sacrifices for their conversion, and we have to be willing to speak the truth with love, to help them to know that there is freedom from any kind of sin — if we will only turn to the Lord Jesus for His Mercy. We need to use the Sacrament of Mercy (Confession / Penance / Reconciliation) on a regular and frequent basis, and with regular use of this powerful sacrament, the Lord Jesus can and will free us from whatever sins we have been enslaved to.
May each and every one of you grow daily in your love for Our Lord and your response to the call of His Merciful Love to freedom — true freedom, which is freedom from the slavery of sin! God bless you!
Fr. Ben J. Cameron, C.P.M.