Summer 2019, on the way home from India, I stopped in Lourdes, France to experience the power of the blessed mother, Mary. In India, the divine feminine is worshipped in a powerful way. Shakti is responsible for everything and anything created in the universe. She is fierce yet loving.
Growing up, Mary was always on the side altar with a gaze looking down. She seemed to just stand there and cry when Jesus was being led to his death. Wouldn’t a mother do more? Maybe her non-reaction that the church portrays shows her power to accept god’s will. I’m not sure. So I came to Lourdes to experience first-hand what Mary means to people.
Growing up, I never paid much attention to Mary and did not understand her power. But, when things in my life were very low, it was Mary I prayed to. She must have had some impact on me from my years in Catholic school.
Here I am, now in Lourdes, where Mary appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette in 1858. What exists here today is absolutely amazing and beyond words. The energy is very gentle, loving, dynamic and silently strong. It is one of the most sacred places that I visited. Behind the scenes, something is happening.
The one thing that blows me away is the power of hope and deep devotion. Thousands of people visit each day, praying the rosary, singing ave maria. There is a nightly procession with candles where the people in wheelchairs and hospital beds go first. They come here with the hope that entering the holy water will cure them.
With grace and desire, I found a way to be part of the volunteer team that helps women into the water. I see what happens. The water is powerful for those who enter. Maybe it’s their faith, maybe it’s complete bullshit. All I know is that the water changes them in a very profound way.
They cry, they jump, they bow down. As if waiting their entire life for this moment. A woman, crying, asks me to pour extra water on her arm. She said, “Be careful, the plane crash burned my arm and I recently had surgery.” With love, I poured the water, asking Mary to help heal not only her arm, but also her tears.
Many of them can hardly walk. I hold their arms with all my strength to make sure they don’t fall. The hardest ones are those who are completely paralyzed. What persists is their smile and strength to hold on to the small blessed mother statue that the volunteers give to the very sick patients. After preparations that may last 30 minutes, 6 volunteers carry the patient into the water. The eyes and facial expressions explain it all.
With all the women, I feel blessed to be able to hold their hands as they enter the water. Praying for them that their prayers are answered. What else can I do? Just taking part in the power of prayer works for me now.
“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.”