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The following text is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on February 6, 1965. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.

 

Statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate ConceptionAt Lourdes, Divine Providence takes two different attitudes towards human suffering. The first is more sensational and thus catches our attention more. It is when Our Lady, as a compassionate mother, heals the sick and lame and thus proves the veracity of the Faith. This, in turn, shows her mercy for wayward souls, by giving them a strong motive to convert.

The innumerable pilgrims who are not cured exemplify the other attitude, and beg the questions: “Why would Our Lady cure one and not others?” and “Isn’t this in contradiction to the first attitude?”

The answers to these questions demonstrate suffering’s raison d’être and role within the perfection of the Divine plans. Thus, we can learn much more by this second attitude than by the first.

To reach a conclusion, we first must recognize that Our Lady demonstrates her goodness at Lourdes. She shows that she can and wants to work miracles for her children. Nevertheless, the vast majority of pilgrims return uncured.

 

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Analyzing the matter, we conclude that suffering and spiritual trials are the very means of most souls’ sanctification. These are necessary, because most souls only develop detachment and love of God through suffering. Saint Francis de Sales expressed this well when he called suffering the “eighth sacrament.”

I was speaking one day with Cardinal Pedro Segura, Archbishop of Seville. He recounted a conversation he had with Pope Pius XI. The Holy Father was bragging that he had never been sick, when Cardinal Segura smiled and said: “Then Your Holiness is lacking the sign of the elect.”

The pope was startled and the cardinal continued: “All the predestined were sick or afflicted, and seriously so, for at least part of their lives. If Your Holiness has never been sick, it is a bad sign.”

Some days later, Pius XI had a massive heart attack. From his sick bed, the pope wrote a note to Cardinal Segura that read: “Your Eminence, now I have the sign of the elect.”

Truly, sickness and suffering of every order are signs of the elect.

Our Lady realizes that suffering is indispensable for the salvation of souls. She would endanger their eternal destiny if she were to cure everyone who visited Lourdes.

Furthermore, she does something even greater for those whom she does not cure. She gives them such an acceptance of their condition that I have never heard of someone who returned from Lourdes, embittered because he was not cured.

Rather, the uncured return with a great resignation and are utterly satisfied with their trip. Many arrive and, seeing others more needy than themselves, ask Our Lady to cure these unfortunate ones rather than themselves – and often their prayers are answered.

Bear in mind, these are not people with minor illnesses. No one travels to Lourdes because of a cold. Rather they are seriously sick and willingly suffer for the benefit of others. This is a true miracle that directly confronts human selfishness. It is a greater miracle than the cures that take place.

The disposition of the Carmelite nuns in Lourdes is, perhaps, even more beautiful. These consecrated souls offer themselves in expiation and suffer all manner of illnesses willingly, to buy graces for those who visit the shrine. They never ask to be cured, preferring to offer their pains for the pilgrims’ benefit.

Understanding the extent to which Original Sin has decayed human nature, we can see that these outstanding acts of abnegation, so foreign to fallen man, are the greatest miracles of Lourdes.

This is the deeper reason that Our Lady performs cures at Lourdes: to produce these spiritual and moral miracles that lead souls to Heaven.

How could it be otherwise? Would Our Lady be truly good if she aided bodies at Lourdes and neglected souls? Would she truly love mankind if her primary objective were not always to lead them to love God?One could object: “This is difficult to accept, because suffering is hard to bear.”

The Agony in the Garden of Our Lord answers this objection. When the God-man was confronted with the full extent of His sufferings, He prayed: “If possible, remove this chalice from Me, but not My Will, but Thine be done.”

This is the attitude we should have in face of suffering. Then, just as an angel came to console Our Lord, Our Lady will send us consolations amid our suffering.

Thus, we should have courage, resolution and energy, understand why we must suffer and strive to take joy in it, remembering always that it is to the elect that God sends suffering.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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