Bishop Soto in Lourdes 2023 - 5th Dispatch

On Saturday of the Pilgrimage, the pilgrims from the Western Association of the Order of Malta joined with other American associations to offer Mass together in the Grotto of Lourdes. The grotto is at the base of a rocky hill that slopes down into the River Gave. In a small alcove in the rocky slope above the grotto the beautiful Lady appeared to the young Bernadette on February 11, 1858. On subsequent visits, the Virgin Mary would reveal to Bernadette the miraculous spring of water and present herself as the Immaculate Conception.

This is the place where the pilgrims gathered. The malades were up front and close to the grotto in their wheelchairs and carts. At the venerated site, a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes stands in the alcove where she appeared to Bernadette overlooking the assembly drawn by young girl’s testimony. Vines brimming with white blossoms formed a natural halo around the image. At the base of the image were the words, “Que Soy era la Immaculada Concepciou” (I am the Immaculate Conception), the words she spoke to the child of Lourdes.

A simple hewed stone altar rested at the threshold of the grotto. Around the altar, against the wall of the grotto sat the concelebrant bishops, including me. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was the presider as the celebration of the Mass offered with a beautiful, sunny day to accompany us. The assembly contemplated the mystery of the Eucharist where Mary’s apparitions to Bernadette gave testimony to the Communion of Saints and the transcendent beauty of the Body of Christ. Wrapped in mystery, the Liturgy of the Church is already a part of the heavenly liturgy. The wondrous encounters between the Virgin Mary and Bernadette have provided only a glimpse of this amazing mystery uniting heaven and earth. That morning Mass in the grotto of Lourdes made this wondrous mystery so apparent.

The bishops and I could not admire the religious panorama, as we were tucked inside the grotto. I was still afforded a favorable place. From where I sat, I could hear the spring of Lourdes gurgling and splashing just behind us. Its faint echo filled the grotto with a quiet hymn in harmony with the Eucharistic rituals reverently fulfilling the Lord’s commands.

The playful sound of water was a quiet reminder of the simple rituals performed in the baths days early: the washing of hands and face, then drinking the water. These humble gestures performed with water from the grotto’s font, resonate with the sacramental mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist. The Lord Jesus washes us clean with his precious blood. The water and blood that flowed from his pierced side, the Lord Jesus offered for us, he offered to us: “Take and drink. This the chalice of my blood.” The soft cheerful sound of the Lourdes fountain awakens us to the divine life that flows from the Eucharistic table. Blessed Mary never ceases to teach us and draw closer to the saving mercy of her beloved Son, Jesus.

Read more from Lourdes: First Dispatch - Second Dispatch - Third Dispatch - Fourth Dispatch - Fifth Dispatch