When the Saint Comes Marching In!

07-24-2022Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

“Oh when the saints come marching in…” You’re gonna want to be in that number this coming Thursday when St. Bernadette comes marching into our Parish! This is the first time that the relics of the Saint, from the Sanctuary at Lourdes, France, will be on tour in the U.S. and we are fortunate to be one of the hosts. Of course, St. Bernadette is tied to Our Lady though the apparitions at Lourdes.

Our Lady called herself the “Immaculate Conception.” Something that the very young Bernadette would have little or no understanding of. The Church had just finished developing the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (that Mary, herself, was conceived without sin) in a special act of grace anticipating her virginal conception of Jesus. And as a sign, Our Lady left the waters that have become familiar to all who visit Lourdes. The waters are known for healing the sick.

Healing the sick was the first act of Jesus in proclaiming the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. Sin has infected the world and caused God’s beautiful creation to be marred and to suffer from all sorts of sicknesses. Jesus showed that this was not the plan of God from the start and in His Kingdom all would be well. When miraculous healings happen, it is a sign of God’s grace working in our sin sick world.

But we have to be careful here. Often, someone receives a physical healing or an emotional or psychological healing but the spiritual healings are always the best. When Jesus healed the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus, the Gospel writer tells us, “he immediately followed Jesus.” And that is always the purpose of a healing: to grow closer to Jesus and to become a faithful disciple. And where did Bartimaeus follow Jesus? “Up the road,” up the road to Calvary. He was given the grace to carry his cross and suffer with Jesus so as to live with Jesus one day.

And so it is with every saint. The grace of God operates in them in a special way that draws us to them and inspires us to imitate them. Think of Mother Teresa, wherever she went huge crowds would gather just to get a glimpse of this holy woman. When it comes to relics, we believe that the same grace of God that was infused in them during their lives on earth still somehow mysteriously abides in their remains. So much so, that many saints, including St. Bernadette are incorruptible, or not touched by the normal process of decay. In fact, when St. Bernadette was exhumed, her skin was the same color as a living person. A sign of the purity of life that she led, and a witness to her sanctity.

When the Saints come marching in, there is usually a reason, though it may not be known to us. So, I invite you to come with great expectation, with your intentions that the powerful intercession of St. Bernadette before our Heavenly Father and the pure Virgin Mary will be heard. There is no hocus-pocus or weird side show to all this. Come with the simple faith of a child, and see what blessings come to you.

Since our Christian Faith is incarnational, the Word became Flesh, God had chosen to use the tangible things of this world to communicate his Grace to us. All the Sacraments, show us that again and again. That is why we use bread and wine, water and oil, touch and words. God respects our humanity and so often uses the simple parts of creation to reveal His presence to us.

The full schedule of events is listed HERE. Come and make it a Prayer Day, a mini-retreat. I especially draw your attention to the Virtual Pilgrimage beginning at 11:00a.m. Along with the relics of St. Bernadette, there will be pieces of the Lourdes Grotto and blessing with water from the Shrine. You will experience what it is like to make a Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France without ever leaving Sun City West!

I hope you’ll be in that number, when the Saint comes marching in!