Given at the International Mass on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, on 24th July 2022
Every time we come to Mass, we pray together 'Our Father'. It is the prayer that Jesus taught us. Day by day, it is the first prayer on our lips. It is indeed the daily bread of our prayer.
In the Gospel this morning, we have heard how St Luke presents this prayer to us. In pondering his words, we must remember that St Luke is constantly telling us that Jesus spent time in prayer, especially in the key moments of his ministry. At his baptism, he is praying; before the choice of the twelve, he prays all night; at the transfiguration, he is at prayer; in the Agony in the Garden, he is silently praying. The disciples are deeply moved. ‘Teach us to pray', they say.
And, so do we. We want to pray, yet we are so easily distracted. Here in Lourdes maybe prayer comes more easily, for a few days. Here we encourage each other, we pray together and we have our Blessed Lady to lead us. 'Pray for us sinners', we say, over and over again. And, she does so.
Here we can strengthen our way of prayer, shaping it again around the lessons of the ‘Our Father’. Here are some of these lessons.
First, our prayer is about the praise of God, about the wonder and holiness of God, about the work of God, the kingdom, about the mercy of God. Our prayer is always, first of all, joyful praise and thanksgiving. So do not be miserable in prayer!
Secondly, our prayer is for those in need: those in need of forgiveness and those in danger of losing their way. Our tradition is to pray far more for others than for ourselves!
Thirdly, listening to St Luke, we remember that we must persevere in prayer and never lose heart: 'Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you'. And, he tells us why: because our Heavenly Father knows what is good for us and will give it to us!
In these days in Lourdes, in this place rich in prayer, may our prayers be like this: prayers of joyful praise; prayers for others in their needs; prayers that never lose heart or cease!
This year's theme begins with the words 'Go and tell the priests…’. This is a call to each one of us to renew our relationship with the Church. The last years have been so hard, so isolating and full of dismay. Here, in Lourdes, we know again the joy of being together. Here we are called to step out, to be the Church, together, visible, joyful, together with Mary, Mother of the Church. This is what we must tell to each of our priests: our love of the Church and our love of his vocation. Just as the priest calls us to pray, so too do we call him to joy.
And not just the priest, either. 'Go, tell it' - to everyone - that we have a Father, we are not orphans. We have a Father who is holy, gracious, compassionate, forgiving and who will never betray us, and who will feed us with the finest bread and with the clearest truth.
That is Good News! Go tell it to all!
Father, may your name be known, that all people may come to you, their loving Father.
Father, may your name be held holy, so that all may find life together in peace.
✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster