Monday, April 16, 2012

St. Bernadette

One of the phenomena of the "Charismatic Renewal" in the Catholic Church during the '70's through the early 2000's  was the blossoming of "Healing Masses". These Masses include an anointing ritual. The ritual may or may not be the Anointing of the Sick. Many times, the celebrant will anoint with oil any who come forward so that they may be healed.
St. Bernadette
An old monsignor was commenting on these "Healing Masses" and said, "If they're so great for healing, how come the same people show up week after week?"*

Healing is never promised us but it seems to be one of the great arguments against God for some, "IF GOD IS SO GOOD, THEN WHY IS THERE CANCER? BLINDNESS? GINGIVITIS?" and so on.
It's a hard question and a basic question. The nature of suffering is one of those make or break issues to the faithful.
Which brings me to today's saint: Bernadette Soubirous. Long story short, Bernadette was given a vision of the Blessed Mother in the mid-19th century. The Blessed Mother identified herself as the "Immaculate Conception" but we call her "Our Lady of Lourdes". It is in Lourdes that pilgrims go for healing. The Church affirms that this is authentic.
Now, despite the countless healings attributed to the site and the intercession of the Blessed Mother, Bernadette herself died from a serious bone disease. One may be cynical and surmise that, "She found a healing source but it could not heal her" which echoes some of the attitudes toward Christ on the cross.

There is a difference between healing and curing. The Church makes no promises of either. As it goes with the saints, physical healing is given if it be necessary for salvation. Perhaps the same is said of cures.

Bernadette died in peace and her body is noted to be one of the incorruptibles. The degradation of death has not physically ruined her body (inside and out!). I suppose that maybe God has made her fit for the resurrection. Like Jesus appeared with wounds to his disciples so they may believe, Bernadette's incorruptible body may be a sign that it's not always about being healed to live but being preserved for the afterlife that matters.

The monsignor's comments were thought provoking, and funny, to be honest but there is something beautiful about those who trust in God so greatly that they do go to their churches...even Lourdes...for healing. 


*since then there has been some Vatican corrections to the Healing Mass. Or attempts at correction. The spirit moves....