By Mark Miravalle
STUBENVILLE, Ohio, 10 FEB. 2010 (ZENIT)
On Feb. 11, 1858, the
Immaculate One appeared to a true anawim, a "blessed poor of the
Lord" from the mountain town of Lourdes
14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous.
Beside the River Gave in the grotto of Massabielle, "Aquero" or
as Bernadette first referred to her in her local patois dialect
appeared with rosary in hand to convey a global message of
prayer and penance in reparation to God for sin and for the
conversion of sinners.
After the instruction by the Lady to dig for water, which caused
a stream from which a supernatural generosity of miracles would
flow down to our own day, Bernadette received the great Marian
self-revelation which would awe the faithful and bewilder the
theologian: "I am the Immaculate Conception."
The Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been solemnly
defined some four years earlier by Blessed Pius IX, but could it
correctly be stated that Mary indeed was the Immaculate
Conception, rather than establishing that she was conceived
without original sin, as did the Vicar of Christ?
St. Maximilian Kolbe would later explain that for the Mother of
Jesus to say "I am the Immaculate Conception" conveys that Mary
is mysteriously in her very essence full of grace and free from
sin. She is a new creation, the perfect creation of the Father,
so as to be the immaculate Mother of God, and also to be the
faithful co-redeemer with her Son the Redeemer.
Karol Cardinal Wojtyla preached powerfully on this theme in a
Dec. 8, 1973, homily on the Immaculate Conception. The future
John Paul II reminded his congregation at Cracow: "Mary was the
Co-redemptrix, because she was first the Immaculate Conception."
In his Feb. 11, 2008, World Day of the Sick message, Pope
Benedict XVI refers to Mary's unique co-redemptive suffering
with Jesus as the foundation for her maternal compassion for
"all those who are in affliction": "For this reason, Mary is a
model of total self-abandonment to God's will: she received in
her heart the eternal Word and she conceived it in her virginal
womb; she trusted in God and, with her soul pierced by a sword
(cf. Lk 2:35), she did not hesitate to share the Passion of her
Son, renewing on Calvary at the foot of the Cross her 'yes' of
the Annunciation. [...]
"Associated with the Sacrifice of Christ, Mary, Mater Dolorosa,
who at the foot of the Cross suffers with her divine Son, is
felt to be especially near by the Christian community, which
gathers around its suffering members who bear the signs of the
passion of the Lord. Mary suffers with those who are in
affliction, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort,
supporting them with her maternal help.
"And is it not perhaps true that the spiritual experience of
very many sick people leads us to understand increasingly that
"the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every
sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother, the first and the
most exalted of all the redeemed?"
Not only does Our Lady bring to the sick a perfect human example
of Christian redemptive suffering, but the Holy Father says
further that "Mary suffers with those who are in affliction."
A mother's heart is not merely empathetic to the sufferings of
her children, but through the very nature and necessity of
Christian love, she enters into their sufferings, which brings
forth the extraordinary fruit that comes only from the
sacrificial experience of shared and united human suffering.
Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical
Council on Health Care Ministry and main celebrant at the
liturgical celebration for the 2008 World Day for the Sick at
St. Peter's Basilica, re-echoed during his homily the sentiments
of Benedict XVI. In regards to our sufferings in relation to Our
Lady, he said, "our suffering is also her suffering": "In order
to respond to the full love of the cross, we must pronounce an
unreserved 'yes' to the mysterious plan of the Redeemer, a 'yes'
that means fullness of Love.
"This complete 'yes' of love is the Immaculate Conception of our
dear Mother, Mary, who participated on Calvary as the co-redemptrix
with the Savior. [...] Christ on the cross suffered all the
pains that his Most Holy Mother suffered. And she in Christ
suffers all our pains, she assumes them and knows how to
commiserate with us. Our suffering is also her suffering."
The intercessory power of Our Lady of Lourdes is not limited to
the geographical confines of a French hamlet in the foothills of
the Pyrenees. Where there is suffering and sickness, there is
the Mother, hovering in wait to mediate graces of consolation,
healing, and courage, all in conformity to the perfect and
generous will of the Heavenly Father. She waits only for our
fiat in faith, to be freely welcomed into our homes, into our
hearts, as she was by the disciple who Jesus loved (John 19:27),
to bring to each one of us extraordinary healing graces of the
Whatever our present ailment or cross may be, Our Lady of
Lourdes is the universal Mediatrix of healing and persevering
grace, universally for all humanity, and personally for you and
Where there is suffering and sickness, there is the Mother
hovering in wait to mediate graces of consolation, healing , and
courage according to the Father's perfect will, contingent only
upon our fiat to her. Whatever the present ailment or cross may
be, Our Lady of Lourdes is the universal Mediatrix of healing
grace and peace, universally for all humanity, and personally
* * *
Mark Miravalle is a professor of theology at Franciscan
University of Steubenville. Author of more than a dozen books on
Mariology, and editor of "Mariology: A Guide for Priests,
Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons," he wrote "The
Seven Sorrows of China" in 2007. He is married and has eight