Monday, March 21, 2022
Toni Pallatto - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | For the first time ever, the relics of St. Bernadette, the visionary of Lourdes, are scheduled to tour the United States. And the visit will begin right here in South Florida, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Miami, with an 8 a.m. welcome Mass April 7, 2022.
The relics also will visit St. Bernadette Church in Hollywood April 8, then return to Our Lady of Lourdes and remain there until April 18, Easter Monday, when a multilingual farewell Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m. On April 11, Monday of Holy Week, Archbishop Thomas Wenski will celebrate a 7 p.m. Mass at the parish, which will be followed by a candlelight procession.
Msgr. Kenneth Schwanger, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, was instrumental in making this happen.
“I saw a great opportunity here, particularly with the current state of our world,” he said. “I started calling parishes across the country with the names of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette to make them aware of this grace, and now the relics will be visiting 32 parishes and 26 dioceses in the United States.”
He explained that, for the relics to visit, Archbishop Thomas Wenski had to make a request to the Sanctuary of Notre Dame. He did so over three years ago, “but with COVID, all requests were delayed,” Msgr. Schwanger said. Around the time Miami’s request was granted, the Sanctuary of Lourdes expressed an interest in a national tour.
The Vatican has granted a plenary indulgence for those visiting the relics during the tour. During the Miami stay, Masses will be offered daily at Our Lady of Lourdes along with the Geste de L’Eau, washing and drinking of the water of Lourdes.
On Feb. 11, 1858, a “lady in white” began her 18 visits to a poor, uneducated 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, in the obscure town of Lourdes, France, —population 4,100 — at the Grotto of Massabielle. Over the course of six months, the “lady in white” treated Bernadette with the utmost respect, asking if Bernadette might be so kind to come and visit her.
“I do not promise you the happiness of this world but of the other,” the “lady” told Bernadette, who became the messenger to the local community, the priests and the bishop of Tarbes.
On the 16th apparition, Bernadette asked the “lady” her name, to which she replied: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Father Dominique Peyramale, the local priest, was immediately convinced that Bernadette was communicating with the Blessed Virgin Mary, for neither Bernadette, nor anyone in the local community, could have known that three years earlier, in 1854, this theological expression had been assigned to the Blessed Virgin as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The priest brought Mary’s message, that a chapel should be built in that spot, to the bishop of Tarbes, who three years later confirmed that the apparition was indeed the Virgin Mary. Her instructions become a reality with the building of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, the washing with and drinking of the water of Lourdes, and pilgrims coming to participate in the nightly candlelight processions.
Bernadette left Lourdes to live out her religious vocation within the community of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers in 1866. She saw the chapel completed but never returned to Lourdes. She died in 1879, was proclaimed blessed in 1925, and a saint in 1933. Her body, exhumed in April 1925 for her beatification, was found to be uncorrupted. Fragments of the fifth and sixth vertebrae have been removed and reserved for veneration by the faithful.
“Our Lady of Lourdes Miami is a reflection of Our Lady of Lourdes, France,” said Msgr. Schwanger. “We have our own Hospitalité de Miami (HD Miami), a group within the diocese that is associated with the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes.”
These two organizations work together to organize two archdiocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes each year, in June and September. “Their service helps to make each pilgrimage a grace-filled encounter with the healing touch of Jesus through the intercession of his mother,” Msgr. Schwanger said.
On the 11th of each month, Our Lady of Lourdes also hosts either a eucharistic procession and benediction or a rosary candlelight procession, alternating every other month. In Lourdes, France, these are held daily.
“People who are sick and their caregivers from across the diocese come to Lourdes, Miami, for healing, much in the same way they would go to Lourdes, France. [Because] not all of us are able to travel to Lourdes, France,” Msgr. Schwanger said. “The Hospitalité de Miami would be happy to share its experience and help other dioceses set up their own organization to make annual pilgrimages.”
Visiting St. Bernadette during the relics’ time in Miami is a rare opportunity.
“St. Bernadette continues to be a vehicle through which Mary points the way to her son, Jesus Christ, through this relics tour,” said Msgr. Schwanger. “It’s an affirmation that the Lord attends to everyone and everyone has an opportunity to be healed and, in turn, to bring healing and peace to the world. And don’t we all need healing in one way or another?”