Light and Life – Jan-Feb 2021, Vol 74, No 1 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
Winter is the time of year when long nights linger and stretch into day. When fallen autumn leaves wane in beauty, decompose and return to the soil; when animals burrow deep into the earth for protection from the harsh elements of a bitter spell; when blizzards strike with frightening force, when ice and snow, with their bonechilling cold, leave entire cities longing for warmth and the emergence of spring.
There are profound times when people too experience a “winter” in life, not just as a season, but as a spiritual journey that plunges them to levels of darkness, orphaned from hope and joy. Depression, serious illness, chronic pain, sin, struggles of faith, spiritual dryness, loneliness, marital strife, financial woes, broken relationships—all of these can bring on periods of desolation where we begin to doubt God’s plans for us, if he is with us—or even if God exists. Winter may be a season of the year, but it is also a part of human experience, and it can strike at any time.
–It is then that one asks, “Is there no God?” Or, “Has he forsaken us?”
But winter is just a season, and we must remember its proper place and its true meaning – though it may bring darkness, decay, and cold, it is also necessary to the cycle of life and is a part of God’s design! As the psalmist says, “It is God who set all the boundaries of the earth, who made both summer and winter.” (Ps 74:17) It is true that elements of the earth die and return to their origins, but it’s in the dying that new seeds of life are born. In the depths of winter, hidden beneath the frost and snow, lie the beginnings of spring and new life.
In a similar way, when we experience a long winter in life, it’s easy to begin to despair, whether our winter is because of our own choices, through sin, or from something entirely beyond our control that strikes with equal vigor. At these times, we must realize that God is near to us in the same way that he is present to the winter. Moreover, just as the decay of winter is the fertilizer for the spring, so the suffering we endure is the “stuff” of our spiritual renewal—even if we don’t always have the wisdom to embrace this.
If we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus, we can say that it was a voluntary winter brought about by human hands and yet under divine providence. And even as he in his human form died and was sent to the depths of the earth, we discover that in God’s plan, not only was he to conquer death and realize new life—but save us in the process.
If you, who read this, are experiencing a long, dark spiritual winter, do not lose hope, but find solace in the fact that winter is but a season that always passes into spring, and if you endure till the thawing of the ice and the retreating of the darkness, you will discover the light and warmth of new life as it stirs within you.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so, will my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire. And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
(Originally appeared in the Western Dominican Province Newsletter on November 11, 2012)
Note from the Director
Dear faithful supporters of the Rosary Center & Confraternity, THANK-YOU to all who have already donated to help us. We cannot do this without you! We rely on your ongoing support. May God bless you for your generosity!
Fr. Joseph Sergott, O.P.
The Message of Lourdes
18th February 1858: extraordinary words
During the third apparition, on 18th February, the Virgin spoke for the first time: “what I have to say to you does not have to be written down”. This means that Mary wished to communicate with Bernadette in a loving heart to heart way. From the very start, Bernadette was invited to open the depths of her heart to this message of Love.
Bernadette was overwhelmed by the second statement of the Virgin Mary: “Would you be so kind as to come here for fifteen days?” It is the first time that Bernadette was addressed in a formal way. She felt she was respected and loved, as a person in her own right. We are all worthy of respect in the eyes of God, because He loves each one of us.
The third statement of the Virgin was: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” When Jesus, in the Gospel, invites us to discover the Kingdom of Heaven, He invites us to discover the “another world” within our world as it is. Wherever there is love, God is present.
God is Love
In spite of her poverty, her illness and her lack of education, Bernadette was always deeply happy. That is the Kingdom of God, the world of true Love. During the first seven apparitions, Bernadette’s face always radiated joy, happiness and light. However between the eight and twelfth apparitions, everything changed: Bernadette’s face became harsh, sad, and sorrowful, and above all she performed incomprehensible gestures… She moved on her knees to the back of the Grotto. She kissed the dirty repulsive ground of the Grotto. She ate some bitter plants. She scraped the ground three times trying to drink the muddy water at the back of the Grotto. She tried to drink a little and then throwing it away, she took mud in her hands and smeared it on her face. Then the young girl turned to the crowd. They all said: “She’s mad!” During these four Apparitions, Bernadette performed the same gestures. What did all this mean? Nobody understood! Nonetheless, here we are at the heart of the “Message of Lourdes”.
Biblical dimension of the Apparitions
These actions are biblical actions. Bernadette acts out the Incarnation, the Passion and the death of Christ. Moving on her knees to the back of the Grotto: this action recalls the Incarnation, God humbles himself to become human. Eating bitter herbs at the back of the Grotto recalls the Jewish tradition found in the ancient texts. Smearing her face with mud: when the prophet Isaiah speaks to us about Christ, he depicts Him as “the suffering servant”.
The Grotto hides an immeasurable Treasure
During the ninth apparition, “the Lady” asked Bernadette to scrape the soil, saying to her: “Go to the spring, drink of it and wash yourself there”. By these actions, the mystery of the heart of Jesus is revealed for us: “A soldier pierced his heart with his lance and there immediately flowed out blood and water.” The herbs and the mud represent the heart of man wounded by sin. However, in the deepest recesses of that heart, there lies the very life of God signified by the Spring. Bernadette is asked: “Did the ‘Lady’ say anything to you?” She replied: “Yes, from time to time, She said: “Penance, penance, penance. Pray for sinners”. By “Penance”, one must understand “conversion”. For the Church, conversion consists of turning one’s heart towards God and towards our brothers and sisters, as Christ taught us.
During the thirteenth Apparition, Mary said to Bernadette: “Go, tell the priests and that people should come here in procession and to build a chapel here.” “Come here in procession” means accompanying our brothers and sisters in this life. “Build a chapel here.” In Lourdes, chapels were built to accommodate the crowds of pilgrims. The chapel is the “Church” that we ought to build where we are.
The Lady gives her name: “Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou”
On 25th March 1858, the day of the sixteenth apparition, Bernadette asked the “Lady” her name. The “Lady” replied in the local dialect: “Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou”, which means “I am the Immaculate Conception”. The Immaculate Conception is “Mary conceived without sin, by the merits of the Cross of Christ” (definition of the dogma promulgated in 1854). Bernadette went to see the Parish priest straight away to give him the name of the “Lady”. He then realized it was the Mother of God who was appearing in the Grotto. Later, Msgr. Laurence, Bishop of Tarbes, authenticated this revelation. We are all called to become immaculate The message is signed when the Lady gives her name after three weeks of apparitions and then three weeks of silence from 4 to 25th March. The 25 March is the day of the Annunciation, when Jesus is “conceived” in Mary’s womb. The Lady of the Grotto tells us her vocation: She is the mother of Jesus, her whole being is directed towards conceiving the Son of God, and She is entirely devoted to Him. For this reason, She is Immaculate, wholly inhabited by God. In this way, the Church and every Christian should allow themselves to be inhabited by God in order to become immaculate, wholly forgiven and pardoned so that they may, in turn, become witnesses of God.
THEOLOGY FOR THE LAITY: