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You are why we do what we do - report, describe, comment, review. It is to bring to your eyes just what life is like for believers across Asia that we publish UCAN.
But as you know, the effort needs to be sustained if it is to have continuing effect.
UCAN publishes some 150 stories a week in four languages across six websites. We are grateful to benefactors in Europe and the US who support us. But those countries and the Church there are under increasing financial strain and their generosity no longer covers our costs.
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Thanks in anticipation.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Our Lady of Lourdes
- February 11, 2011
At Lourdes, an obscure town in southern France, the Blessed Virgin Mary was seen and heard by a young peasant girl called Bernadette Soubirous in the mid-19th century. Upon being commanded by âthe ladyâ as she would call the apparition, Bernadette dug into the earth and a miraculous spring of water gushed out, the source of healing to countless believers, and a standing refutation to numerous skeptics.
Popular Catholic devotion has taken Lourdes to itself â from artificial grottos in almost every church compound, to candlelight processions and pilgrimages.
What is it that people find on a pilgrimage but not in a church? Perhaps itâs a companionship on a journey with fellow travelers whom one is not likely to meet again, an interaction which provokes a sharing of confidences never revealed before.
And what do people pray for? Judging from the scribbled pieces of paper left behind in petition boxes, they pray for the usual things â peace of mind, freedom from illness, peace in the home from difficult children and wayward spouses, success in exams, finding jobs and a suitable partner in life, avoiding financial disaster. The needs of the human heart are much the same, down the centuries and across cultures.
But pilgrimages are also times of âthreshold experiencesâ. That is, we embrace new ways of perception, make new decisions and experience renewal as we cross from one spiritual threshold into another. Pilgrimages can change our lives and renew them. Men and women who âcross the thresholdâ of ordinary living discover God anew. Well did the Council redefine the Church as a âpilgrim peopleâ, always in need of turning anew to the Gospel.
And whether at Lourdes or Fatima or Velankanni or elsewhere, Mary is venerated as âpowerful motherâ, the mother who carries her son in her arms, and reaches out to bless all her supplicants. This is a symbol found in almost every religious tradition. It is not just physical cures for which Lourdes is famous; even more, though less visible, is the healing of the soul and the gift of faith, which marks this shrine as a place blessed by God for the salvation of his people.