Archbishop of Westminster

Lourdes Catechesis: the Joy of Conversion

Cardinal Vincent led the catechesis on the first day of the Lourdes pilgrimage on the Joy of Conversion.  He began by talking about the three stories of Lourdes: the story of Bernadette and what happened in 1858; the story of living and sharing together of the pilgrimage; and the story which may take place in the inner, spiritual life.

He centred his catechesis on the third of these, the story of the inner life.

First, he explained, 'We are invited by God. God's message comes to us through Mary. The invitation is for us to make a new start in our lives, to turn again to God, our loving Father, with all our hearts.'

The Cardinal went on to urge, 'Listen each day for this invitation. Bernadette heard it in her poverty Let's not be too busy or too full of ourselves to hear this call.'

After the invitation comes the conversation. Cardinal Vincent continued, 'Bernadette was asked to come to the Grotto for two weeks to meet Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and to talk with her. We only have six days. We must go there too, not out of curiosity but to listen and talk honestly.

'We are awaited by God at the Grotto. He is hoping for our presence since He is the one who invited us. 

'This is a conversation in love. It can be long and deep and can contain lots of silence.

'In this conversation, we see our sinfuless, our poverty and problems in a different light. We stop blaming God, putting God in the dock. We come to realise that our sins pull us away from God, who wants to give us the very fulness of life. He needs our whole hearted cooperation to do this.

'Bernadette also teaches us about penance, actions of mind and body which create solidarity between us and all the afflicted of the world. Sin creates wrong habits in us, like creases in a fine dres. Ironing them out takes time and effort.'

Cardinal Vincent then turned his attention to the path from the Grotto, 'Mary sent Bernadette to the spring. The Grotto spring and its water are a sign. Our pathway from the Grotto is alwas to the Church, to the sacraments of the Church, which are for us the spring of true life.

'Going constantly to this spring is the fruit of our conversion, our turning again to God. Our pilgrimage leads us afresh to this spring of sacramental life because our pilgrimage is a pathway to conversion.'

Turning to the example of Mary, the Cardinal reflected on two of her names. 'Mary is called "the Ark of the Covenant" because she carried within her the Eternal Word of God. She brings that Word to us. She brings us to that Word. We too are to be little arks of the covenant, bringing the Word of God within us to others.

'Mary is "the Immaculate Conception". This is God's plan for all of us. As St Paul says, "We are to be hol and spotless in his presence" (Eph 1.4). God is doing this work of holiness within us. My that work progress well on our pilgrimage!'


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