A Pastor's Descant
Lacking the power of clairvoyance (there are limits to sacerdotal abilities), I can’t foretell the outcome of our feast day, writing as I must in advance of the day. I shall hope and pray that many will be highly graced through the homage given the Mother of our Lord on that day.
Sometimes I question myself about the relevance of our Shrine. Is it really a special place? I see in the promo advertizing our feast day, “Just like Lourdes,” and I wonder if this isn’t a bit over the top, as they say. (By the way, I do not write these materials, though I’m very grateful to those who do. I’m responsible – some would say irresponsible – only for my sermons, the grandiloquent outpourings of the Grotto News, my correspondences, etc.) After due consideration of the question, I have concluded that there is indeed something special about our Lourdes Grotto.
The indicators of this are first an historical one. We boast of having the oldest outdoor Marian shrine in the State of Michigan. There’s sometime to be said for antiquity and longevity of such a devotion. Then there is the testimony, written and verbal, of wondrous happenings at the Grotto over the years. The visible witness of many crutches, canes, and wheelchairs which at one time nearly littered the far wall of the Grotto were removed by one of my predecessors many years ago – he being caught up in that notorious ‘spirit’ of Vatican II, deeming the display an embarrassment in an enlightened age.
Fortunately my immediate predecessor, upon a stroke of good luck (pardon the profane expression), came upon those few remnants attesting to cures. These, encased, are on display in our shrine lounge. The letters and other written documents we have (not all of them have been preserved) also claim that special graces, spiritual and physical, have taken place upon a devout visit to our Lady’s Grotto. Thus far, two ways in which we are ‘like Lourdes.’
There is however another likeness, one that is also a convincing sign of divine favor. It is the persistent presence of so many people from this area (and beyond) who come here as pilgrims. Whether they get anything special or whether they come to give something special doesn’t matter. They come. There is then a divine commerce that takes place in our parish, and especially, I would say, on our feast day. And if so, it makes this a holy place. I am reminded here of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis) with angels ascending and descending upon it: holy aspirations and prayers (with the sacrifice of the Mass) arising; grace, consolation and healing coming down. Bethel is the name of that biblical place, the evidence that God, for reasons of His own, chooses certain places to manifest His presence in a particularly striking way.
I have never wanted to make sensational claims about what we have here. On the other hand, I would not wish to shortchange the Lord and our Lady by failing to acknowledge their beneficence. The facts speak for themselves: the long history, the reports of the witnesses, and the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful), the presence of so many people who come to our parish to honor Our Lady of Lourdes on the day of Her Assumption.
Liturgically speaking, this is a one - day event only (the Tridentine liturgy has also a preparatory day on the 14th: the Vigil of the Assumption). We have also been making a preparatory novena for the feast day, as has been our custom. Moreover, we make a sort of informal ‘‘octave of our feast day by retaining the richer altar coverings and the adorning flowers until the 22nd of August, which is either the feast of the Queenship of Mary (new calendar) or of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Tridentine calendar).
I will have to leave off here to fret a bit about making a schedule for our feast day, about many details for it, and about what I might say in my sermon. May the Lord give success to the work of our hands! (Psalm 89).
-- Fr. Perron