The Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11. In 1858, Our Lady appeared to fourteen-year-old Marie Bernarde Soubirous, who would later become St. Bernadette, in a cave on the outskirts of her home town Lourdes, France. In a series of visions Our Lady called for prayer and penance and eventually revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception.
During one of the visions Our Lady told St. Bernadette, “Penance! Penance! Penance! You will pray for sinners. Go and kiss the ground for the conversion of sinners. Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself in it. You will eat an herb that grows there.”
Most moms pray for their children, I think. Because we have to. We know intimately that we did not create the children in our homes, and we know, too, that there’s a limit to the extent to which we can influence them. Someone greater than us is ultimately responsible for their existence and that Someone had better do something about it! I find it so easy to pray for my kids because their goodness and holiness closely correlates to my happiness and sanity.
However, Our Lady of Lourdes has asked that we pray for everyone, not just the people in whom we have a vested interest. It is natural to want the happiness of our children, family, and friends, but how about everyone else? Thanks to the internet, we are exposed to a vast amount of people throughout the day, people who could easily be lumped into “everyone else.” Their personhood is distilled into their online presence, which can often be a sharply penned opinion. And if their opinions clash with ours, what do we do?
Mary’s message at Lourdes served as a strong directive to me to both keep track of the kinds of thoughts that I’m having about her children during the day and then to turn them into a genuine prayer for them. When I remember to do it, I am reminded of what both the anonymous person online and I am–sinners in need of prayers.
What a challenge this can be, to let go of pride and become an intercessor for someone who hurt or upset us. The Church knows this, comfortingly. Regarding the effort entailed in prayer, the catechism reads:
Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (2725)
Our Lady of Lourdes is inviting us to draw close to Her Son in pouring ourselves out in prayer not just for our loved ones, but for everyone. It may be a big sacrifice at the time—depending on the comment—or small, but it’s an opportunity to enter into the heart of Christ, who gave up everything for us.
“We pray as we live, because we live as we pray.”-CCC