Sally McAllister reviews the official 150th Lourdes anniversary book.
[New City Magazine – ?]
I was delighted when I was asked to review this book about Lourdes, which I first visited just over twenty years ago. I was a reluctant pilgrim. I had more or less written off Lourdes, imagining it to be the Catholic equivalent of a theme park, specialising in holy souvenirs of dubious artistic merit. I could not have been further from the truth. Lourdes left a mark on my heart and soul in a way few other places have.
2008, marks the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. Since that time millions of people have visited Lourdes and they continue to do so.
At all hours of the day and night around the Grotto, (the area where the Apparitions took place), is full of pilgrims at prayer. The air charged with anticipation that here, again, God will bringing healing to those who need it. People go to Lourdes looking for healing and many find it. Not always the healing of bodily illness but, more often than not, the healing which is deep, inner peace. Small wonder, then, that once visited, this place draws you back.
Written by the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Lourdes for Today and Tomorrow, is the official pastoral presentation of the 150th Anniversary celebrations. In each of its twelve chapters, one of the ‘missions’ of Lourdes is highlighted, and is illustrated by a personal experience.
From the book we see that Lourdes has a very different value system from the one we are offered by society in general. Here, not the healthy, wealthy and successful but the poor, the sick, those who are suffering in mind and body take pride of place. The chapters on justice and peace, Christian Unity and inter-faith dialogue show another dimension of Lourdes mission at the beginning of the third millennium.
There are beautiful insights and cameos in this book which make it a fascinating read. I refer in particular to Lourdes as a place of peace; the interest shown in Lourdes by Muslim women and Bernadette as the patron of the marginalised. But in order to get to the real gems contained in this book it is important not to be put off initially by some of the very traditional Catholic forms of expressions a few of the contributors have. It is an effort – but one that is well worth making.
I would conclude by saying: if you like Lourdes, you will love this book. If you know nothing about the place or are not an obvious fan, it is still a good read. Wherever you stand on Lourdes, this book will be a very pleasant surprise.