The graces Our Mother secures for us may not be the ones we expect or hope, nor will they necessarily come at the time we expect. But they will be the healing graces we most truly need, and come at the right time for us. – Fr. Dorian Llywelyn, Celebrant of the Mass

More than 100 Pilgrims journeying to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France gathered at St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles to attend the special Lourdes Pilgrimage Mass and orientation luncheon. The luncheon was hosted by Paul Tosetti, who is the Lourdes Pilgrimage Director. The Celebrant of the Mass was Fr. Dorian Llewelyn, S.J. and Chaplain of the Order. Malades (French word for sick) and their companions, Knights, Dames, Provisional and Auxiliary members, and volunteers celebrated and met one another prior to the Pilgrimage, which begins on April 30. After the Mass, a procession to Casa Italiana was led by Stephen Dow of the Orange Location, who flew the colors of the Order of Malta; Tim Shannon, President of the Order of Malta Mobile Ministries; Ann Farley, who carried the beautiful Our Lady of Lourdes; and Celebrant Fr. Llywelyn and Co-celebrant Msgr. Richard Duncanson.

Excerpts from Fr. Dorian Llywelyn’s Homily:

“Mary is a mother who stands by the foot of the cross, not running away from pain: wherever people are suffering, Mary is there. In many of the Bible scenes that mention Mary, she is simply there, silent, but present. Not drawing attention to herself but pointing us always to the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.

“When the Virgin Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to the temple to present him to God, the prophet Simeon tells her that her heart will be pierced – the meaning of those enigmatic words is finally made clear at the Crucifixion. It is often harder to see someone we love suffer than it is to suffer ourselves. Our Blessed Mother has ‘shared in the mystery of pain’ in a unique and special way that allows her to understand our pain and suffering from the inside.

“Throughout three short years of ministry Jesus cured and healed the sick. He not only healed physical ailments but also healed souls. The bond between mother and son means that Mary is the first and perfect disciple. Her ministry reflects and shares in the healing and consoling ministry of Christ. In the Paradiso of Dante, the poet imagines St. Bernard saying confidently that the Mother of Jesus “will grant us every grace.” She stands as a sign of hope for us who call upon her. And as a good mother, Mary knows she is needed and is pleased when we call out to her. We can turn to her with confidence and hope.

“In the Litany of Loreto… her children acclaim her among a host of titles as “Health of the Sick.” The title in its original Latin is Salus Infirmorum, words which could also be translated as wholeness for people who are broken; rootedness for the unrooted; safety for those who are insecure or shaken by events in their lives; salvation for those whose souls are sick or whose hearts have been broken.

Mind, body and soul, health, wholeness and salvation are all connected, and perhaps that connection is evident in no place more than in Lourdes. I have been to Lourdes 14 times and never witnessed a miraculous, dramatic cure. But I have learned that everybody gets healed in some way when we go on pilgrimage there. I have seen people grow in faith, hope, and love, and the Malades and their family members come to better terms with their sickness. In some cases those healings start there, and continue to take effect over months and years. Lourdes has taught me that Mary is present not only there but everywhere, and in many ways and that there are many healing miracles in daily life -- the miracle of daily kindness and selfless care; the miracle of living in gratitude and hope.

“In Lourdes there is a small monument dating from the 1930s paid for by a pilgrim -- a blind Belgian lady. The inscription says that she came seeking the miracle of regaining her sight. She went home still blind, but the words tell us that she received an even greater gift than being cured of blindness -- she recovered her spiritual sight. The graces Our Mother secures for us may not be the ones we expect or hope, nor will they necessarily come at the time we expect. But they will be the healing graces we most truly need, and come at the right time for us.

“Let me end with a prayer which comes from Lourdes – one I found last year, printed on a scrappy little piece of paper which was just lying around in one of the sites. I didn’t know the prayer, but have since discovered it is an Act of Trust in Mary, of the “Family of Our Lady of Lourdes,” a devotional confraternity whose aim is to honor the Immaculate Conception. The Act of Trust includes these words:

“O Mary, you know the utter poverty and sin of our lives and the life of the world. Today we wish to entrust ourselves to you, totally and without reserve, to be reborn each day. By the power of the Spirit, may we live the life of Jesus as humble servant of our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and sick. Teach us Mary, to bear the life of the Lord. Teach us the consent of your heart. Amen

“May Our Lady of Lourdes, Health of the Sick, intercede for us all and the people we care for and care about, that our eyes be opened to the healing presence of her Son among us.”